I’ve been glued to the Indian Pacific Wheel Race over the last couple of weeks with the exploits of the riders in the 5,500 km cross Australian Cycle blowing my mind during that period. I’m talking in particular about the pre race favourites, and current leaders Englishman Mike Hall and Belgian Kristoff Allegaert.
The two men, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with at the very start of the World Cycle Race, have been duking it out since the start of the race in the early hours of the 18th of March. Now with less than 600 kilometres to go through the mountains of New South Wales, barely 7 kilometres separates them.
Let’s take a closer look at both riders to see who’s likely to stay the course and take the first title in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.
What needs to be said about Mike Hall that hasn’t already been said. One of the kings of long distance endurance racing, he has won everything that he’s entered. The original World Cycle Race champion, the inaugural Trans Am winner and twice the victor of the Tour Divide along the Canadian and American Rockies. He also established and directs the Transcontinental Race in 2013, an annual event across the entire continent of Europe.
When I was planning my own assault on the World Cycle Race in 2014 Mike was my first port of call. In his dual role as race director and the previous winner he was so helpful with advice, support and guidance on a number of issues. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have started the race, never mind ending up winning it had Mike not helped me along the path.
The Belgian machine just eats up the road, with seemingly no regard for sleep, food or energy levels. How he can continue to pound out the miles around the clock is breathtaking. I had the distinct pleasure of being passed by Kristoff within the first few hours of my World Cycle Race. He’d cycled to London from Belgium for the start and then on his commute home he passed me out on the first climb I encountered.
His advice as I passed him out was simple. “Don’t stop! Keep moving!”. I managed to catch him again before the ferry left Dover, and picking his brain on the crossing was invaluable. Once again completely gracious with his time and energy.
As pre race favourites neither have disappointed but the next couple of days as they finish their rides it’s going to be interesting to see whether Kristoff’s pace will burn off Mike’s ability to go through the pain barrier and sleep deprivation that will be required to seal the win. It’s their first head to head battle and all the expectations of the Dot Watchers has been met by both of their performances.
The real story though is a lot further down the pack, one of the favourites for the women’s race was Italy based rider Juliana Buhring. The first woman to circumnavigate the globe by bike, with just 8 months experience on a bicycle, back in 2012, setting the world record in the process of 152 days. As well as this acheivement she has won the women’s section of both the Trans Am and Transcontential Race, finishing fourth overall in the 4,400 mile Trans Am in 2014.
This time around she experienced problems crossing the Nullarbor when her breathing was a struggle, her heart was racing and her body started to puff up. An allergic reaction saw her forced out of the race. Where others would have said “Maybe next time” and tucked their tail between their legs and headed for home. Juliana sought the medical help she needed and found herself back on the start line 8 days later where she started her ride all over again.
Considering she’d had stitches in her knee after a fall just weeks out from the event it was a minor miracle she was on the start line in the first place.
The two boys will be fighting it out for the next few days to see who is the top dog in endurance cycling. Regardless of who emerges from the fight, both have written their names in the history books and have proven to be phenomenal competitors in their own right. Juliana will take a little bit longer to reach Sydney, but just having the guts to restart her journey after such complications and obstacles is a victory in itself.
You can follow all the riders in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race on their website www.indianpacificwheelrace.com and if you want to find out more about my slightly slower adventure around the world where I won the second edition of the World Cycle Race you can get your hands on “Pedal The Planet” below.