When the ‘dot’ marking Mike Hall’s progress during the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in Australia in late March stopped moving, the feeling among those watching the race was one of disappointment rather than alarm.
The previous 24 hours or so had seen the Yorkshireman locked in battle with his friend and rival Kristof Allegaert as the pair swapped the lead, each vying to be the first to cross the finish line at Sydney Opera House after almost a fortnight of hard racing across the continent.
Most assumed that he had stopped for a rest – indeed, on the race’s Facebook page, many had wondered that day just how far he could push himself without taking a break. It was clear that he would have to stop sometime soon.
Even when, after a longer than usual break, the dot on the map stubbornly refused to move, there were rational explanations – a problem with the GPS tracking system or the website charting the riders’ locations, a spent battery.
Another possible reason was one that, if it occurred at all, was quickly pushed to the back of the mind.
Then, late in the evening of Thursday 30 March UK time, reports started coming in of a cyclist killed in a collision with a car on the route of the race. The location matched the last one Hall had been tracked at.
People put two and two together and this time, heartbreakingly, four was the correct answer. Confirmation that he had lost his life near Canberra early on the morning of Friday 31 March soon followed.
Mike Hall did more than anyone else to establish ‘dot-watching’ as a pursuit among followers of ultracycling.
Twice a winner of the Tour Divide and also triumphant in another US event, the TransAm race, the 35-year-old also won perhaps the ultimate test for ultra-marathon cyclists – the World Cycle Race.
But the 35-year-old also founded and organised the Transcontinental Race, the fifth edition of which was recently confirmed as going ahead this summer, despite his death.
Unlike the Race Across America (RAAM), all those races – as well as the Indian Wheel Pacific Race – are unsupported.
So, with no crew to post social media updates, and the riders focusing on racing, and without the dozens of checkpoints that RAAM uses, the way to follow the racing was by tracking the ‘dots’ representing individual riders through whichever tracking website the race in question used.
And few riders’ dots ever got watched as attentively, and by so many people, as Mike's did.
Right now, Mike is taking his last ever ride as friends escort his ashes from his birthplace of Harrogate to the village of Abbeycwmhir in Mid-Wales, where he lived with his partner, Anna.
Fittingly, the ride has been put on Trackleaders.com and although there are several people on the ride, there’s only one dot – Mike’s.
At the time of writing, they are at Cragg Vale heading towards Rochdale, and you can follow their progress here.
If you happen to be on the route as they pass and want to hop on your bike to pay your own tribute to Mike as he takes his final ride, you will be more than welcome.
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.