GNSS and Bicycle Racing

GNSS and Bicycle Racing

Tour de France

By the time this month's GIM International reaches your desk some two hundred bicycle racers split into 22 teams, numerous service cars, motorcycles, trucks, and more than 4,500 men and woman will be preparing to start, or just have started, the 97th Tour de France.

‘Le Tour', as the French have it, is the world's most important bicycle race, and one of the biggest annual, freely accessible events in the public calendar. This year the event will comprise 21 stages and cover a total distance of 3,600 kilometres. The stages vary in scenery and topology, from windy roads in the north-west of the country, some sections of which are still paved with cobblestones, to mountain passes in the Alps and Pyrenees. The highest point this year is the Col du Tourmalet in the Hautes-Pyrenees, at a height of 2,115 metres above sea level

Beside the racers and their team vehicles, the stages will be crowded with jury, press VIPs, security motorcycles, cars and trucks. Last but not least, a publicity caravan will head up the racers, stretching over 20km along the route and consisting of some two hundred colourfully decorated vehicles representing 35 brands and giving away twenty million gifts to the estimated fifteen million onlookers along the way.

In order to regulate all this traffic and avoid traffic jams on the sometimes narrow roads, lined by spectators all trying to catch a glimpse of the riders, most of the motorcycles and vehicles are equipped with a tracking and tracing device. Position is calculated using a GNSS receiver and coordinates broadcast to a mobile control room; huge screens show the position of all major vehicles and motorcycles in real time on the stage map. This allows the police and jury members to constantly stay abreast of the actual situation. The same information is also used to inform journalists from approximately 180 countries about time differences between breakaways and the main pack.

Photographed is a typical image of a stage in northern France: A pack toiling along narrow, cobbled roads, and a motorcycle with GNSS antenna riding ahead of the racers. The website below allows live tracking of the Tour cyclists.

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