The last thing Mac Hollan expected to see when he looked over his shoulder as he rode through Canada’s Yukon territory on Saturday was a wolf chasing him.
Hollan and two friends are riding from Idaho to Alaska to raise money for charity. When his friends stopped to make a bike repair, Hollan carried on, and when he heard breathing behind him, he assumed they had caught up.
But the panting wasn’t two cyclists working hard, it was a wolf who’d decided that Hollan looked like lunch.
Hollan knocked it up a few gears and accelerated down the road, with the wolf in hot pursuit. Once he’d managed to get a gap on the animal, he stopped and got out his bear spray.
He sprayed the wolf in the face and thought it would then leave him alone.
“He backed up about 20 feet and I thought he was going to stop,” Hollan told Canada’s CBA News.
“I thought, ‘What a wild story. I’m glad that’s over.’
“Then he kept running again and came back up to the back of my bike and actually attacked the back of my bike and ended up ripping the bag that I carry my tent stakes and poles in and ripped it off the back of my bike and spilled it all over the highway.”
Four vehicles passed Hollan as the wolf continued to harass him, until a couple driving a motorhome stopped to help.
Hollan climbed aboard, leaving his bike on the roadside, and the wolf attacked the bike. It didn’t leave until another motorist threw a metal water bottle at it, hitting it in the head.
Hollan and his friends were prepared for bears, but not wolves, which rarely attack people. They are carrying bear spray and bear bags and have been keeping a clean camp, a measure that’s recommended to stop bears scavenging for food.
But Hollan says one freak incident is not going to stop him and his friends from riding through Yukon and Alaska.
He said: “It’s kind of hard to worry about it happening again because I think the odds of it happening in the first place were astronomical, and for it to happen twice... I don’t foresee that happening.”
Commenters on the CBA site have noted that this is very unusual behaviour for a wolf, and have speculated that it was either unusually hungry, ill, or actually a large stray dog, perhaps a husky.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.