Sunday, 8 September 2013

It's so corny to call them my heroes...but they are

Day 4, Baden-Baden (the town so nice, they named it twice) to Mulhouse. Day 3 marked the end of Stage 1, and I was sorry to see the first group of stage riders leave. It seems like each rider is a page in a book of equal parts slapstick humour, friendship and courage.

It’s difficult to describe just how hard this ride is, if you haven’t witnessed it up close. To call our sub-elite athletes “amateur” gives the wrong impression, although the term, linguistically, is correct – they are amateur only in the fact that they don’t get paid to do this; it’s purely for love. Or madness. At some point it gets difficult to tell the difference.

On day 2, our riders cycled 200 kilometres in 30-degree heat – the hottest day in Belgium since the 1800s. The route was by no means flat – many riders learned for the first time what “rolling countryside” means to a pro rider. Among the riders, the term “rolling countryside” has now become an ironic synonym for “bloody hard work”.

We’re conducting an observational study along with the ride – this will become relevant in a minute. The researchers from Newcastle and Northumbria Universities that focus on the effects of exercise on people with diabetes are using the opportunity of this unique ride to employ mobile technology to wirelessly track three groups of riders: elite athletes with diabetes, sub-elite athletes with diabetes, and people without diabetes.

One can easily understand why the first two groups would want to participate in the study – there is so little published research on diabetes and endurance exercise that every athlete and her or his clinician are basically making history when they get it right. Taking part in the study isn’t much more than they do every day – pricking their fingers to calibrate their glucose monitors multiple times each day, inserting the needle from a continuous glucose monitor beneath their skin to keep a constant watch on their blood sugar levels while they expend energy, tracking their heart rate, their nutrition, their weight…

Pat and Hugh being typically high-minded
But for the riders without diabetes taking part in the study, this is a commitment above and beyond the punishing ride. Two of them, Hugh Anderson and Pat Montalbetti – who are putting in some of the fastest times on the route – refuse to take this whole thing seriously. Still trying to convince them to post their “Blair Witch Project” video made in the Black Forest today to YouTube.

Kinda makes you burst with admiration, doesn’t it?

Lauren Sarno is the mHealth Grand Tour marketing dogsbody and welcomes contributions to the blog – please send images, any relevant URLs and a one-line bio (like this) along with your post.


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