Round-the-world bicycle race begins tomorrow

The World Cycling Racing Grand Tour, the first round-the-world bike competition, gets underway tomorrow. From Greenwich Park in London, ten competitors have signed up for the event which will send them on a month’s long odyssey that will cover more than 18,000 miles and span multiple continents — just before returning to where they started in time for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The competitors in the event are given quite a bit of leeway in terms of determining their route and strategy for the race. They are required to cover a minimum of 18,000 miles, and GPS devices will be used to track their progress and ensure that they are adhering to that rule. But they can cover that mileage on a route of their own choosing, and can even decide if they prefer to pedal east or west along the way. Additionally, they must also visit antipodal points on the planet – which is to say, two points that are on the opposite side of the globe from one another. They are also allowed to use scheduled public transportation to cross impassable barriers, which simply means they can use ferries or aircraft to get across large bodies of water.

The current record for a circumnavigation of the planet by bike is held by Brit Alan Bate, who managed to accomplish that feat in just 96 days, 10 hours, and 33 minutes. In order to beat that record, one of the riders will have to average more than 190 miles per day. That will be a challenging and grueling pace for any rider to maintain throughout an event that if five times longer than the Tour de France.

Once the race starts, we’ll be able to follow the progress of the riders on the WCR website and track the routes they take around the globe. It should be interesting to see which way they elect to go and how long it takes for them to get back to London.

[Photo credit: Douglas Whitehead]