Nine employees from Etisalat’s global operations have been picked to take part in a gruelling bicycle tour across five European countries to raise awareness of diabetes and trial mobile technology to help manage the disease.

The 2,100 kilometre GSMA mHealth Grand Tour will begin in September 2013. The team was selected from Etisalat staff in the UAE, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tanzania following a series of assessments and tests. Mr. Moncef Mettiji, Zantel Tanzania Chief Technical Officer will represent Zantel Tanzania.

“This is really great initiative and I feel that as a company we have a responsibility, because diabetes is a one of the silent killers in our country,” said Mr. Mettiji.

Potential squad members were put through their paces in their home country and in the UAE with psychological and physical training and assessments. These included a cycle tour simulation on Yas Island’s Formula 1 Track in the summer heat, medical tests and cycle races through Cairo and downtown Islamabad.

“The candidates invited to the assessments performed excellently and it was extremely difficult to select our squad from such a pool of talent,” Abdulkarim Julfar, the Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Group said. “I thank everyone who has participated in supporting this worthy initiative which is the first of its kind not just for the Etisalat Group but for our industry as a whole.”

The champions, who hail from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia, USA, Canada, Italy and Afghanistan, will be riding different legs of the 13-day tour. Beginning in Brussels, the tour takes the athletes across borders, before UAE National Faisal Yousif Alreyaysa and fellow Etisalat UAE colleague and triathlete, Dr. Muneer Zuhdi, will complete the final and hardest stretch through the Pyrenees mountain range.

Etisalat’s champions have been selected from different levels of the Group from retail management through to senior management, with the youngest rider being 29-year old Egyptian national wind surfer team member and Sea Scout leader, Ahmed Ragaie. Several of the riders, such as Pakistani, Muhammed Rizwan, are inspired to participate to show support to family members who are living with diabetes.

For Etisalat Group Director of Technology, Jason Woodrow, it is a lifelong ambition to compete in a grand cycle tour, having been inspired by the Tour de France. Meanwhile, Saudi rider, Ali Al Shehri is not only raising awareness of mobile health solutions, but also encouraging cycling in Saudi Arabia, a sport that is gaining popularity within the Kingdom.

On the other hand, Afghani taekwondo enthusiast, Massihullah Ahmadzai, is proving that as well as working hard, employees can use their spare time to help raise awareness and support causes such as this. The team also includes a certified ‘iron man’ Moncef Mettiji who holds both Swedish and Tunisian nationalities and one highly experienced lady cycler, Italian-born, Sara Coppo.

Five reserves have also been named in case one of the first nine is unable to participate in September for unforeseen reasons. These include Usman Ali Akbar from PTCL, Ahmed Shekeb from Etisalat Afghanistan, Omar Okasha from Etisalat Misr, Raza Akram from Ufone and Fraser Graham from the Etisalat Group. Training continues throughout the summer, with the start of the Tour on September 5, in Brussels, Belgium.