The unofficial version of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race is currently taking place in Australia – and it looks as though the first riders will reach the finish at Sydney Opera House on Saturday 31 March, the anniversary of the death of British ultra-cyclist MIke Hall during last year’s event.
Organisers Dragon Face Pty Ltd had planned to hold a second edition of the race from Fremantle to Sydney, but with the inquest into Hall’s death looming, said last month that they would not be holding it.
However, around 40 cyclists who had signed up to take part – a number of whom, including cycling journalist Rupert Guinness, rode in last year’s race, which was cancelled in the wake of Hall’s death – decided to participate on an unofficial basis.
Currently at the head of the race, according to live tracking on MAProgress, is Australian cyclist Heath Ryan – aka The Dark Knight – who is taking a slightly different route at times to other riders in tribute to one of the country’s greatest ever cyclists, Sir Hubert Opperman, who turned to politics after his cycling career.
Ryan, aged 53 is following the route that Opperman – in 1928 a member of the first English-speaking team to take part in the Tour de France, with that year’s edition said to be the toughest ever – took when he set a record for riding from Perth to Sydney.
In his biography on MAProgress, Ryan says that his taking part in the race is “more than just unfinished business,” and that he “is riding Hubert Opperman's 1937 record-setting route from Perth2Sydney via Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra en route to Sydney Town Hall and Bondi.
“The transcontinental record on this original 'Overlander' course stood unbettered for 32 years.
“I will ride with my 'Oppy' beret, and just hope to finish the distance safely,” he adds.
His closest rival – and a long-time leader of the race since it left Perth on 17 March – is Adelaide-based Abdullah Zeinab.
Both men are heading to Sydney after passing through Canberra – and it was shortly after riding through Australia’s capital city that Hall was killed when he was struck by a driver in the early hours of 31 March last year.
The riders currently undertaking the 5,500-kilometre trip across the continent set off from Fremantle in Western Australia on 17 March at 6.22am – the time Hall’s tracker stopped moving.
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.