April 2, 2017 § 5 Comments

Like many others, I spent the second half of March ‘dot watching’ – as a virtual spectator of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. I have to confess my involvement began in a pretty skeptical way:

But, as the days wore on and riders stacked up incomprehensible daily distances, I found myself checking the (most excellent) race tracker with increasing frequency. Once a day, twice a day, several times a day, hourly, setting it as a home page…

Eventually I had to eat my words:

By the time Kristof Allegaert entered Canberra on Thursday 30 March I was out on my bike to cheer him on and join the little peloton that rolled through town. At Australia’s Parliament House, with 5,000km in his legs, he still had the energy to wave at me. I could not have been more fascinated by this freakish creature had it come from the Moon instead of Fremantle.

So when I woke up on Friday my first thought was ‘Where’s Mike?’

I checked his position and started to estimate his arrival time, and that’s when I saw this:

And a horrible possibility started to form.

Being here, it was painful reading the thoughts of people who had no idea how lonely that stretch of road is, or how dark it is at 6.20am, at this latitude and longitude, on the day before daylight savings ends. ‘The sunrise may have been a factor.’ It was pitch black. ‘It is probably some other cyclist.’ It’s a country road. ‘His tracker is still on. That’s a good sign.’ That’s a bad sign.

So, with a couple of friends who joined the dots and came up with the same awful picture, we waited for the world to catch up.

It’s a devastating way for any person’s life to end. It also killed a superhuman suffer fest that captivated an obscure but enthusiastic community of onlookers. Your dedication and your wit were a wonderful accompaniment to the race, dot watchers.

I think the race organisers did the right thing in cancelling the event forthwith, but I also admire any riders who intend to battle on, and I’ll be there for them too.

It is unacceptable that, in a race with just 70 entrants, one was killed by a car and another seriously injured. If the IPWR is run again, I predict it will only do so with different rules in place.

One will place a maximum limit on daily moving time, a limit that can be easily monitored using the spot tracker. It won’t reduce the tactical mastery involved, the choices about when and where to stop and refuel, but it will enforce daily rest.

There are two ways that one rider can get in front of another: ride faster or ride for longer. In the IPWR, it was the latter that made this event stand apart from others. In a sense, it was a race against the effects of sleep deprivation, to see who can go without the most. Some manage that better than others.

I found the day 13 video of the Kristof vs Mike showdown very hard to take, largely because of the following quotes:


I realised I can’t see in the dark.

I was all over the road…can’t see…after it got dark.

I can’t see properly at night to ride fast enough.

I think the adrenaline will keep me going.


What Mike was doing was just impossible.

He pulled over because he was so tired.

Tomorrow, the day after, I have to ask Mike how he is now.

Kristof never got that chance to catch up with Mike.

Another rule will require riders to wear high visibility clothing between dusk and dawn. This is already a standard race rule for some ultra distance running events like UTA100.

A High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS / NZS 4602:1999 –D/N Class for day and night time wear must be worn over the top of your torso and back pack at the times and locations as specified in the Competitor Briefing document.

Basically after 4.45pm on any road section of the course.

No, it won’t save riders from motor vehicles. No, cyclists should not have to wear high visibility clothing simply in order to take their place on a road. But it could make a difference, not the least to getting a race permit.

I’m so, so sorry Mike Hall died alone, in the dark, on a cool and blustery morning, but I’m so glad he lived his best life. Kudos, chapeau, and respect, to him and to everyone who shared his journey, at least for a little while.




§ 5 Responses to IPWR

  • Ewen says:

    Thanks Leonie.

    As an avid dot watcher from the first day I was worried about the effects of sleep deprivation. Your ideas for a 2018 (and beyond) IPWR should be considered. I wouldn’t like to be cycling along that stretch of highway at night, that’s for sure.

  • Leo Doyle says:

    Thanks for your emotional report. My first thought was that this was like the risks that face Everest mountaineers – but this is different – Mike never considered death, nor did he deserve it. MD

  • Anyoldbike says:

    Hi Leonie

    I enjoyed picking up your tweets toward the end of the event. The enthusiasm that we all feel for a great achievement was in them.

    I apologise for the length of my reply – an essay of its own. I was engaged from before the event commenced, enthralled by the movement of dots in the first week, undecided as to which I the front three that I would like see cross the line first, and desperate for information on the day of the grand battle. And I was strongly affected by Mike’s death.

    I understand that you may have more information in relation to the incident but the majority of us have no idea whether there is some fact leading to the conclusion drawn above.

    My own take on Mike’s comments was that he was a 35 / 36 year old man who had discovered that his eyesight was no longer what it was. While he initially thought that he was just tired, he had realised that he would now need glasses to assist him with riding at night. That is a significant moment in anyone’s life. I accept that being tired probably wasn’t helping. As I recall, he pulled over at about that point and had a break.

    I doubt Mike believed he was racing for a win on that final morning, nor was he fighting for second. I think back to his comment about considering sitting up to see the public reaction to the phenomenon that Sarah Hammond had become. Mike came across as a man who was aware of his position, conscious of other stories within the race, and not driven by his ego to make irrational decisions. The pressure not to have a break, if he thought he needed one, didn’t exist.

    We also always seek a cause but sometimes people just make mistakes. Our legal system recognises that in its sentencing etc. but when we analyse an incident like this we assume that a basic mistake can’t happen. Perhaps it did.

    While another rider was struck during the event, the raw information on that incident suggested that it was within the realm of ‘normal’ things that happen to cyclists and was unrelated to the rider’s actions. As a simple statistic it can be read as something other, but the context is important.

    I agree that mandated breaks off the bike could still be tactical and add interest to the race. I agree that a standard for reflective clothing is sensible.

    I also bear in mind that there is nothing stopping anyone from riding that same route now, without any of the same considerations. There will be many touring and recreational cyclists in the same places. And some incidents will occur regardless of precautions taken.

    It was a great event and some great racing from some amazing people.

    It is important that we all think through what happened, it is sensible that organisers are pro-active to ensure that the event can run again and competitors are as safe as they can be, within the nature of the event. The changes required are small.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and it has helped me to clarify some of mine.


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