Monday, 29 July 2013

The Incredible Team Etisalat

For most of the teams participating in the mHealth Grand Tour, the only selection process for the riders was self-selection. Want to do it? Go for it.

Not so at Etisalat! When we at the GSMA heard what our partner Etisalat was doing to select their riders, our immediate response was mostly amazement. We were extremely impressed at the excitement Etisalat was building for the Grand Tour within their company. That was followed by a bit of confusion. Some professional teams don’t make as big of a deal out of selecting their riders as Team Etisalat was proposing. They did know this was meant to be an epic bicycle ride, not a competitive race, right? Not the Tour de France (although we’re using a big part of the route).

But it turned out they were aiming high to achieve something greater than sports glory – awareness of the importance of exercise in preventing and managing diabetes. Because Etisalat is based in the Middle East and North Africa, and that region has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world – 11% – they meant to tackle, head-on, the challenge of changing things for the better.

When Etisalat committed themselves to creating a team for the Grand Tour, they decided their representatives would have to earn their places. So they invited any and all of their 11,000 employees to compete for the opportunity to ride one of the four stages of the 2,100km bike ride from Brussels to Barcelona. They began with training sessions in their regions with hundreds of participants. Pretty cool, right? But that was just the beginning.

On July 3rd, the eventual nominees attended a fitness boot camp at the Etisalat Academy where they were assessed – physically and mentally – to see who had the ability and the mental toughness to complete their assigned stages. The video highlights are both incredibly impressive and more than a little bit funny. The slogan for their campaign is “Ride the Bike; Join the Fight”, and these men and women were fighting for the honour.

In the end, nine employees plus alternates were chosen from Etisalat staff in the UAE, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tanzania to represent their country, their region, and their proud company as champions! We hope they enjoy every moment of their time on the mHealth Grand Tour because they have certainly earned the right to be there.

Pierce Owen is the marketing coordinator for the mHealth Grand Tour, when he’s not finishing up his degree in international business at the University of South Carolina or raising money for his family charity, Curing Kids Cancer.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Why do the mHealth Grand Tour?

Why do the mHealth Grand Tour, I mean, I’ve never been a sporting cyclist (yes, I’ve commuted by bike for years but not a 100 miles a day) nor am I a huge Tour de France fan, neither do I have diabetes… and developing a rather numb posterior, day after day, seriously?

Well, let’s weigh this up…

1.       I have a passion for all things connected and new technology. As such, embedding sensors and connecting both me and my bike up to as many bits of kit as possible hold huge appeal. Roll out the inner child!

2.       Diabetes has always been around my family; cousins and my mother have it so taking part in a study to understand the role new technology and mHealth can play in the management of such conditions and allowing all ages to lead more active, fulfilling lives is of great interest to me and certainly a cause worth promoting!

3.       Raising funds for diabetes charities will ultimately help the on-going effort to support people living with diabetes and also further the research in this area – this has got to be a good thing!

4.       And what an opportunity, who wouldn’t suffer a numb posterior for this! To cycle through wonderful countryside, meet amazing people, and undertake the challenge of a lifetime…sign me up (well, clearly, I mean keep me signed up)!

So, fast forward a few months and my daily commute really is 100+ miles a day (well, a couple of days a week, Cambridge to London and back) and I’ve certainly developed that numb posterior!

The challenge is daunting but the training is great fun, whether it’s the Sunday morning “Club Run” or the hunger I feel as I cycle north through clouds of Caribbean food smells knowing I have 40 more miles before I get my dinner! And nothing quite beats watching deer in the fields at 5:30 AM or departing Ware, knowing that the past 20 miles of built up housing are now gone and it’s countryside the whole way home.

With less than 8 weeks to go fear has struck; will I get up all those mountains, will I even make it to those mountains, will I wuss out of embedding sensors under my skin, will I have enough Jelly Babies to get me to Barcelona (do they sell Jelly Babies in France)?

Roll on September 5th 2013.

Peter Montgomery is one of a team of riders from the GSMA and works closely with the Tour and Clinical Study Partners – if you wish to Partner with the Tour, please contact Pete.