The Indian Pacific Wheel Race is heading for a grandstand finish after Great Britain’s Mike Hall made up 100 kilometres on Belgium’s Kristof Allegaert yesterday to snatch the race lead.
With a little over 600 kilometres of the 5,300 kilometre coast-to-coast race from Fremantle to Sydney Opera House remaining, the drama has gripped ‘dot-watchers’ – people who follow the riders' progress through the online tracker.
The pair are expected to hit the New South Wales capital early on Friday morning local time, and many expect their fight to go to the wire.
Hall had struggled with injury and mental fatigue during the early days of the race across the Nullarbor Plain and for several days Allegaert maintained what seemed to be a comfortable lead.
The situation changed dramatically overnight, however – although quite how the Briton managed to overturn the deficit isn’t quite clear yet.
On Monday, Allegaert hit Melbourne five and a quarter hours before Hall, who arrived there at 4.20pm, and the Belgian maintained his lead throughout Tuesday.
Last night, though, the situation changed dramatically.
Allegaert arrived at the Omeo checkpoint just before 9pm on Tuesday evening. Hall reached it just after 3.30am on Wednesday morning – six hours later.
But it seems from the checkpoint timings that Hall had already grabbed some much-needed sleep, while Allegaert was still to rest – and by the next checkpoint at Falls Creek, the British rider was just 20 minutes behind his rival.
Soon after, he would be in the race lead and at the last checkpoint in Granya had an advantage of 16 minutes.
— Bright Brewery (@BrightBrewery) March 29, 2017
There’s a lot of racing left though as the pair head through the Australian Alps towards Canberra and, ultimately, Sydney – and more than one observer has wondered whether Allegaert may have grabbed some extra sleep ahead of a final push to the Pacific, while Hall may still need to rest.
The race seems to have captured the public’s imagination in Australia, and is even being followed by one of the country’s biggest names in cycling.
— Simon Gerrans (@simongerrans) March 29, 2017
Ahead of the race lead changing hands, both Hall and Allegaert featured in the Day 11 race video.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.