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Indian Pacific Wheel Race

03 Apr 2017 12:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

               You may be interested in hearing about a recent cycling event which I believe represents the best and worst the sport has to offer.  The best includes drama, fun, challenge, and interesting characters.  Unfortunately, this event ended in tragedy.

               The event being described was the inaugural running of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.  The race entails cycling 5,500 km (3,400 mile) across Australia, from Perth to Sydney.  The event organizer (and participant) was Melbourne cyclist and bike shop owner Jesse Carlson.  Roughly 70 cyclists entered the event.  The key characteristic of the event was its unsupported nature.  Cyclists were not allowed to accept any aid.  They carried their own food and water.  They were permitted to purchase supplies along the route, but only those that were available to everyone.  Most of the cyclists carried sleeping gear and slept in the scrub along the roadway, although some chose to stay in motels.

               I became aware of this event by virtue of following the Youtube channel of Melbourne cyclist Mark Ferguson (aka The Cycling Maven).  Mark has been putting out a cycling vlog for the past year or so.  I have found his videos to be well made, interesting, and often humorous.  Mark put out a number of videos relating to the IPWR in the months leading up to the race.  As the starting date approached, Mark made the bold decision to quit his regular job, enter the race, and devote his energies to his cycling channel on a full time basis.

               Other participants in the race included some world class endurance cyclists (among them Kristof Allegaert, Mike Hall, and Sarah Hammond), famous cycling journalist Rupert Guiness, and a smattering of other cyclists from around the world.  Social media coverage of the race was excellent, with a sophisticated GPS tracking service that allowed race ‘watchers’ from around the work to follow the progress of participants.  There were also frequent and excellent updates provided on various Facebook and Youtube pages. 

               The race began on March 18, and it was quite interesting to follow the daily adventures and travails of the race participants.  Many dropped out along the way, due to fatigue or medical issues.  One participant was struck and injured by a car early on.  Another suffered an allergic reaction to medication, and had to be hospitalized (she subsequently returned to the starting point and restarted the race).  Kristof Allegaert and Mike Hall quickly forged to the front, and raced ahead of the remainder of the field.  Sarah Hammond maintained a strong 3rd place.  The leaders approached Sydney on March 31, with hours to go to the finish. 

               Unfortunately, in the pre-dawn hours of March 31, Mike Hall was struck and killed by an automobile.  The authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident.  The driver was taken to the hospital in shock.  It is clear that the race leaders were extremely fatigued and riding at the limits of mental and physical endurance at this point in the race.  There is sure to be some public outcry regarding the level of risk taken in an event of this nature.

               The IPWR was cancelled shortly after Mike was killed.  Some riders continued on with their ride, while others decided to abandon.  Various Mike Hall Tribute rides occurred on Saturday, April 1, throughout the world, including the city of Sydney.  It is very unfortunate that such an exciting and entertaining event ended in such a tragic way.  RIP, Mike Hall.

IPWR Facebook page :  https://www.facebook.com/IndianPacificWheelRace

IPWR website, with Tracker:  https://www.curvecycling.com.au/pages/indian-pacific-wheel-race

Cycling Maven Youtube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB5vTUmuLCWqiTRDOApgR-g

 

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