Hi all! (Sorry about the beer ad title rip-off...but I like it!)

Well, our race is under way and the thrill is back.

Yes, it's our race -- follow it a bit and you'll see why. I think it's because it first belongs to the land, then to the riders. It's personal, homemade and developing before our eyes: how lucky we are to be in on it!

Organizer Matthew Lee invited me to pitch in on the Updates -- thanks! Paul is posting marvelously savvy news. Having raced it last year, he knows the route and a bunch of riders. He's also a top-notch reporter -- our good fortune. Me, I'm an armchair fan following the race like anyone can, trying to find the special windows in on the action that the Internet can give us. (My background is that I run the DIY/indie/homestyle outdoor website

It always takes me a few days each year to get into the race-following flow, but I'm finally catching on, this go-round.

The storylines come at us from several directions. So a newcomer might wonder, Where to start? Or, they might not even see any action at all at first.

Here's my guide to following the TD...

First, start here with Paul's Updates. Then hop over to the SPOT Leaderboard. From there hop over to the rightside menubar "Race Coverage" items -- that's where you find your main race-following links. Don't miss it!

I suggest diving into the ongoing chat at Then go back to the Leaderboard and see how you can choose any assortment of racers to display and zoom in on or single out.

Phone-in podcasts (in the "Race Coverage" side menu) are a great way to get a "live on the ground" feel. You can hear the wilderness in their voices. (Later on we'll hear mood-swings, too -- from the gloom of exhaustion to the triumph of a great bike shop repair.)

I also like the blogs. They have semi-current posts and pics taken by the racers as they go through towns and find a Net connection, or their family/friends upload cell reports. The blogs are a bit tricky to find. The best place to look seems to be the "Letters of Intent" section under "Start List." If a racer's name is hot, the link goes to their blog. (Not to be biased, but Kent Peterson's blog is a dandy, with pics and fine racer-reporting, including from his ride to the start from Seattle. His "Ghost of Dennis Hopper" poem is great -- inspired in a barn during a rainstorm; I also liked his "I'm already gone" pre-start mindset.)

Don't forget the Splits link -- more good info there.

According to the BikePacking forum (and Paul's Update), we've already had a broken collarbone, with other racers stopping to assist. (Here's to the amateur spirit!) And at least one racer family has posted video footage of the start.

Now, this is a "hands off" race so "follow vehicle" coverage is restricted to reporters with media credentials. I've said it's "our" race, but there are other values to consider. It's about wilderness, after all. And a unique sense of DIY. So we fans get to use our imagination. There are many ways to help us create a better sense of what's happening on the route. ...And don't forget that you can chime in, too!

I like the reports where racers catch up with each other and ride or camp together awhile. Also, the restaurant stories and "people met along the way" reports are super. In a short while some wonderful bike shops will make their appearances. ...They're all actors in this play acted out down the spine of the continent.

TD is fascinating because it offers so many direct connections to the racers and they in turn experience the whole range of what they're riding through. It has natural rhythm and development -- with a lot of room for surprises and comebacks. (Heather Dawe of the UK was the lead SS rider for the first few days -- will she hold on? bounce back?) By comparison, the Tour de France is disjointed and contrived (not to be too harsh). Also, both the TdF and RAAM strive to isolate the racers from their environment. Now, those races have their glories, too, but I look to TD for direct, fresh-faced candor. (RAAM is doing its West-to-East dash even now, as TD goes from North-to-South. I follow 'em both! The TdF has its place, too, as TD wraps up. Ah, summer!)

TD is literate, friendly and dramatic all at the same time. A big source of dramatic tension is in the fact that we can follow a racer's every move via the SPOTs, while they're out of touch, in the wilderness. They can only catch up on news when they reach civilization or find cell reception. Also, SPOTs can be spotty -- sometimes worries vanish when a SPOT starts working again.

According to the chat we've already had a couple route deviations, some many miles ago -- at least one by an erstwhile Contender. Oh no! Other times, already, we breathed with relief as we saw the little bootprints backtrack to the correct turn.

Don't worry that you've missed out on something. TD has a long gestation. You can catch up by clicking back in time whenever you come across a new angle to explore. Check in each day to see how your faves are doing. New storylines are going to emerge along with ever-shifting races-within-the-race. Last year, after the frontrunners finished, I noticed a large cluster of riders still a few days from the end. Ah, another race! ...And even tighter than the first few! Also, last year I learned mid-race about a small town's incredible response to a local rider's fundraiser and followed the links to an amazing side story.

So, we have a medley of ways to get in on the action. I encourage everyone to put together their own mix for following this one-of-a-kind race. ...HERE WE GO!





















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