Red Bull Foxhunt with EE and Apple Watch
Just last weekend my inbox pinged with receipt of a very exciting email asking,
‘Would you like to go to Red Bull Foxhunt in Wales to race mountain bikes and try out the new Apple Watch series 3 (GPS and 4G) on EE’s superfast 4G network?’
Obviously I had to think long and hard about whether to accept not only a place in the only all-female Downhill mountain bike race in the world but also the latest version of a watch I’ve drooled over ever since it was first launched. I was out the door like a shot.
After a long drive through the prettiest part of rural Wales I’ve ever seen – tightly packed steep hills dotted with sheep and a simple stunning reservoir – we rolled into pretty Machynlleth, pitched our tent and headed straight to the chip shop. Hovering above the campsite EE’s hot air balloon provided 4G coverage so that we could all communicate our excitement about the event.
The following morning we had a rider briefing before the uplift started for practice runs. The format meant we could ride the course all morning before recording one timed run in the afternoon that would determine where you started in the main race the following day.
As you can use the slick little Apple Watch (GPS & 4G) on an EE plan without having to take your phone with you (joy!) I was able to leave my iPhone behind whilst riding but still call and text everyone. Plus I could use Strava, which came in very handy when there was an issue with the timed runs later on.
Let’s get muddy
Having watched a course preview I felt confident that the track was nothing I couldn’t handle – there wasn’t anything crazy steep or technical – but what I hadn’t factored in were the conditions. On Friday night we’d been treated to a symphony of thunderous rain and howling winds (so bad that some people’s tents blew away) and all that rain had made things really challenging.
Some parts of the course were hilariously slippery so staying upright was a feat in itself plus people’s nerves meant there were queues of women in front of any tricky sections. An even bigger problem were the bits with thick, gluey mud that clogged up my tyres so much that they wouldn’t turn… at all! I had one half-baked practice run and that was it. I had a look at the ‘Activity Rings’ on the Apple Watch Series 3 to see how active I’d been so far…. And it was not very!
Later that afternoon I set my timed run, managing a decent pace on all the bits where it was possible to roll and coming to a standstill whenever my wheels got clogged up. It was frustrating to not do as well as I might have were my bike designed differently – there’s so little clearance between the frame and the rear wheel that if any mud gets stuck there you’re toast.
Apple Watch series 3 features
The day of the race dawned bright and we were all wondering whether the conditions would have improved. I spent some time playing with the Apple Watch 3 in the morning to get to know all its features and was very impressed by how much is packed into such a neat, smart, portable package. Like many cyclists, I check the weather frequently so it’s pretty neat having a forecast to hand. Plus, if I need to make any kind of emergency call at the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, it’s good to know I can actually do that on the EE network!
The online maps are really useful for finding routes or services (such as a launderette for my muddy clothes) plus you can download apps such as Komoot and use all the routes and rides you’ve created (or follow other people’s). Another cool feature that I find useful for blogging and social media is that you can use the watch as a remote control for the camera on your phone, so you can set your iPhone up to capture a scene then stroll on over and take the photo once you’re in position.
Around noon we headed up the hill for the race, some 200 women dressed in red jerseys making their way to the start line overlooking the town. With Rachel Atherton injured, Trek Factory Racing rider Katy Winton was our ‘fox,’ the format being thus: we’d all set off at once then Katy would drop in an try and beat as many of us down to the bottom as possible.
There were plenty of nerves at the top, many of us having never done a mass start mountain bike race before and so not really knowing what to expect when the klaxon sounded. Though I’m a racer and so naturally competitive, with Red Hook Crit Milan just around the corner I was keen to rein that side of myself in and just get down safely. And as it happened, with wheels that wouldn’t turn once I hit the muddy section it was a good job I wasn’t looking to place well – I had to stop and dig mud out at least FIVE TIMES!
Down at the bottom it was all whoops, high fives and giggles, two hundred women all stoked on what’s surely one of the most fun events on the mountain bike race calendar. Katy Winton managed to overtake all but 21 people, which was impressive on a course with so many bottlenecks and queues but then she is basically Superwoman.
Massive thanks to EE and Red Bull for having me along. EE is the only network that can support the Apple Watch Series 3 4G connectivity. If you buy an Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + 4G) it’s worth noting that you’ll also need an iPhone with a EE SIM only or pay monthly plan, which will allow you to share the number between both devices.