G is for GPS. One of the many challenges involved with a race like this is navigation. Each team is supplied with a highly detailed routebook and a marked atlas, most also choose to utilise GPS devices to assist their navigation. Each section of the race is mapped online and this map can in turn be downloaded to a GPS device. These devices are then used by the crew in the follow vehicle or by the racer on the bike, or sometimes both. A bike device is very useful if the follow vehicle must leave the racer at some point during the day as they can continue to cycle without the crew directing them. GPS co-ordinates are also provided for medical facilities and Time Stations. This allows non follow vehicle crew members to make their way directly to the next Time Station without following the route. This is especially useful as crew campervans are prohibited on certain parts of the route. However as we always say, the routebook should be considered the primary reference point and GPS should be considered a back-up. As with any technology there is always potential for power failure or some other problem. If the crew are following the GPS without looking at the routebook and there is a problem half-way through a section, they may have great difficulty not only continuing but figuring out exactly where they are.
GPS technology also allows people around the world to follow the race in real-time. Once again this year we are delighted to be partnered with Slovenian company BlackBlox, who supply our GPS tracking systems. Each team is issued with a BlackBlox device which plugs into the power output in the follow vehicle and using mobile phone technology their position is constantly updated to an online map. This allows friends, family and supporters anywhere in the world to follow the race. This photo from last years race shows the crews own GPS and the BlackBlox device (with the red light).