TransContinental dot watchers guide. Trackleaders TCR2015

UPDATED AS THE RACE APPROACHES – Hopefully friends and family will enjoy joining the “Blue dot watchers club” while the Transcontinental race is on. Crikey its only a month away now, so here’s a guide to help you use the Tracking leader boards.

The tracking page is coming it can be found at and one rider  Chris Bennett is actually riding to the start so you can practice following him at Chris_Bennett_Warm_up  This post was originally written when the epic Trans America race was in progress, have a play in preparation for TCR2015.

The tracking page for that is on Trackleaders here so open that and view alongside this guide. (The Trackleaders homepage gives you a list of current active races to follow, you can even also check Steve Abrahams massive year long attempt at 76,000 miles)

trackleaders main viewThe tracker opens up on the main map, the first thing you will probably do is click on the map and zoom in like I have here. This actual view shows the Leader Jesse Carlson starting his last days ride to victory. Your now a blue dot watcher, welcome to the club. Note: for the TCR these will probably be Orange flags with the riders unique race number on, I’m No 36.

The TransAmerica differs from the TCR in that it follows a set route, the red line shown above. Part of the fun of watching the TCR is the fact that each rider chooses their own route between checkpoints, so seeing where everybody goes is really intriguing, even for the riders in the event.

  • The dulled out dots show the person is resting.
  • Colours are used to denote lady riders (pink) and riders who started before the official start date (yellow)
  • Mouse Hover over a blue dot – it gives you the last tracking update info. This can tell you how long a rider has stopped for, or current speed. (note updates are sporadic, updates are more in the region of 30 mins, not every minute)
  • Click on a dot and you get more detailed personal info on the rider.
  • The “zoom to rider” in that box is a quick way to see their exact last known location. You can then drag the Google street view man Icon onto the road and put yourself in his tracks, or see where he is stuffing his face right now. (zoom to field takes you back out)
  • The rider lists on the right show all riders in contention, these can be filtered into classes, the TCR will have a solo male, female and pairs classes I imagine.
  • If you hover over a name the riders dot jumps up and down to help you find them. Click on their name and the riders full history of track points is opened in another window

Rider view- JasonHere I have selected Brit Jason Woodhouse, who has stopped for a good rest in Pittsburgh, with a few other riders, and you can tell he’s struggling against some wind here as the trackpoints are closer together. (his twitter reports he was finding it hard in 35 deg heat too)

  • Yellow pause signs try to indicate stops for a certain period, The green tent symbols try and indicate longer stops like sleeping which allows you to try and work out daily progress.
  • The mileage shown is only a rough indication as the program can only measure in straight lines between the points logged, so for a twisting mountainous road this can under read considerably.
  • If you scroll down the history page there are some speed and distance plots to view.
  • Dot watchers in the TransAmerica can usually pick up problems with riders quickly as they leave the route and then seem to stop for long periods; this often leads to discussions on Facebook groups about their welfare.
  • In the TCR this can usually mean the rider is lost! Navigation is one of the big challenges of the ride to Istanbul, and don’t forget the event is unsupported which includes NO help from you family dot watchers from mission control at home. 😉
  • Loved ones and Supporters; be wary of panicking unduly if there are no tracker updates for an unexplained period. On many occasions in past events they have been left off or stopped working after overnight stops. A text message to your blue dot to tell them the tracker has failed is the best practice here.
  • Here’s an example of Ben Thompsons ride last year. As you can see he went dark for several extended periods of tracking due to tracker outages.

All TracksBack to the main Map Page; A great viewing option especially for the TCR is to select the MAP LAYERS on the right hand and tick the “All Riders Tracks”  Option. Its not so usefull for the American event, but in the TCR it will draw a spiders web of riders breadcrumb tracks across Europe. It’s here you can see the many varied and wonderfull routes the racers took. You can also see the current temperatures on the map by ticking that box.

ReplayBy far the coolest feature though, is the ability to play back the race from the start. Using the control box on the main map page (which shows local location time)

  • First tick the follow box for best use, which pans the map around.
  • A category can be selected but for now All is the best view
  • Then press Play and watch it go, the default speed can be changed using the + and  buttons.
  • Pause at any time to take a better view of activities
  • Notice how the pack soon spread out and JW has an early race diversion off route with issues.
  • The playback highlights who stops first for sleep and who rides late into the night, it’s a very rare period when every rider will be stationary.
  • For the TCR you will marvel at the riders varied routes as they beetle across your screen.
  • Screenshots are fun to use in social media posts about your dots antics

Race FlowThe race flow Tab shows a mileage vs Hrs progress trend for the top ten. This is a usefull view and can show if riders are climbing up, or dropping down the order over time. Very fatigued or two close rider battles show up clearly too.

For a more data friendly mobile phone/tablet view, download and use the Blue Dot mobile app, the link is highlighted on the Mobile tab. This initially opens with a list of current tracked events. Select your event of interest and then the TRACKER button to show the SPOT tracker locations of the riders this way.

It’s encouraged you join in with your appreciation, check out race discussions and rider updates by joining the facebook page . On Twitter following the hashtag #TCR2015 can often clarify situations with rider updates. It costs us riders less than a Facebook post, we need all the money we can get for our huge food intake.

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