The World Cycle Racers have been on the road a week now, how are they getting on?
I speculated in my last entry on Wednesday that it looked like our unsupported rider was suffering, having reported sore tendons and appearing to be stopping frequently but not for any length of time. Sure enough she confirmed my suspicions that evening and she had indeed being stopping to stretch and walk a while in between riding. She assured me she was in better spirits than I made out though and seemed to be dealing with things philosophically and enjoying the beautiful scenery. She had also set about reducing her calorie deficit, which is always a good idea. There’s nothing like a small mountain of food to boost the morale of the tired cyclist after a rough day at the office, as well as reminding one’s self that an office is not where one has been.
On Thursday things looked like they were getting better for a while and she had a plan to lighten her load and get some relief from her ailments by travelling towards her home. At first I feared this might spell, for her, an early finish with the temptation to linger among comfort but it was sound reasoning and she appears to be determined to carry on with her drive now being to experience the journey. Tendon trouble persisted however on Friday. She posted this photo of a swollen ankle and took the decision to get the train and seek some medical assistance. She will undoubtedly need some time to recover before setting off again, but she’ll be reset in both body and intentions and will almost certainly enjoy the journey now for the right reasons. Who knows maybe she can conduct a circumnavigation from Munich to Munich and re-set the clock. That would depend on if she wants to. I wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her dot on the move again soon.
The ever cheerful Irishman continues on, completing his first 1000km by day 7. This puts his pace at around 100 miles a day, noon on day 8 being the full week. At this rate he would see his circumnavigation completed in around 180 days, a fair bit away from current world record pace but it wasn’t that long ago that this would have been world record pace, with the previous official world record of 163 days under the old rules which did not include transfers. I would also think it probable that Breifne has the capacity to speed up the further he gets into this challenge. At the moment technical issues are holding him back and although he seems to be quite efficient with stops his support team are perhaps even holding him up. On Thursday he reported 3hrs lost to communication difficulties with his team due to dead batteries which really shouldn’t happen and if it were me I would just keep riding and let my team worry about finding me with the tracker. Breifne did explain to me that his distance measuring strategy was two phones however which he would use for their GPS functions and upload to Strava. This did seem a little risky and it seems to have caught him out, assuming the phone batteries are both dead he can neither communicate with his team or verify his distance. Maybe he’ll be re-thinking this a little for his next leg and wiring up a cycle computer to reduce his dependency on the phones, I hope so.
I met with The Adventurists yesterday to discuss future editions of the race and one thing I proposed was much more rigorous means of establishing rider distances. They are looking into several ways of achieving this. This year the rules are very much in line with the Guinness World Record regulations but there could be stronger guidance on more precise distance measurement. Error is a big factor and in inherent in all systems. SPOT trackers are great for watching and verfying position but do not take into account bends in the road and total mileage always comes up short by as much as 10-15%. Putting the points into routing software helps reduce this greatly but still tends to come in with lower values that are measured on the road due to macroscopic variations. GPS is great for verifying location but can have poor continuity and has limited memory and battery life, which can suffer when using for navigation and recording. The best bet for distance measurement is still the humble cycle computer but it is corruptible and subject to calibration error. Even the most exact measurement of the wheel’s rolling radius will have error as the value changes even with tyre wear, and changing weight. This might seem insignificant but a change of 0.5% in the rolling radius can give an error of 45 miles over 18,000. For this reason it is recommended that multiple systems are used and the rider exceeds at least 18,050 miles to be sure.
Before the 2012 race I calibrated my cycle computer with the help of a friend who is an Engineering lecturer at the University of Greenwich. I also conducted a small experiment by watching the mileage of my Cateye Enduro cycle computer versus my Garmin Edge 705 over certain distances. The GPS and cycle computers tended to be more accurate at different speeds, at low speeds cycle computers appeared to be more accurate and at higher speeds the GPS wins out. I have heard that bicycle odometer manufacturers only tend to approve the accuracy of their devices below certain speeds. Over 100 miles my GPS and odometer agreed to within a couple of tenths of a mile. Somehow I managed to disturb the wheel size setting on one of the two computers I had somewhere near the end of my European leg and didn’t realise until I was in Australia where I made the following videos. (In the second video it shows to be accurate to 60m in 5km – actually checking this against the many signs at 5km intervals became something of a game and checking over greater distances showed it to be generally more accurate than this and that there was quite a bit of variation in distance between the signs themselves).
Lee continues to be the best hope for a new World Record on the WCR 2014. Yesterday morning he estimated that he’d passed 1050 miles in 6 days, putting his average at almost 175 miles per day so far. If he kept that up he would be looking at a circumnavigation of around 100 and some days although that doesn’t include transfers (6 days absolute minimum in my estimation if he is assisted) and as I have said before, my experience would also tend to suggest he is more likely to slow down during the latter part this event rather than speed up, but we shall see. At the moment he is a way off his target of 225 miles a day which would be a very ambitious 80 days but he is still in with a good shout on coming in at under the 125 days official record of Alan Bate. Lets not forget though that he is due to get some support in India and Australia, so that could speed him up there. So far though we have seen both with Lee and Breifne that support logistics have brought them delays so we are yet to see a real positive advantage of the support crew. If they get themselves organised properly though we could expect to see bigger miles in these places. With Lee having more kms on the board as of this morning than Fran and Breifne together, there is a chasm opening between them and Lee is certainly favourite for the win. As I see it the close race is Fancourt Vs Bate and it should be a good one to watch over the next couple of months.