Phil's Blog

Phil regularly posts here with his opinion on current races, cycling politics, and updates from the ground at Le Tour de France, La Vuelta a Espana, and other major races.

The Indian Pacific Wheel Race, Epic Ride or race?

Posted on: Friday, April 07, 2017

The Indian Pacific Wheel Race, Epic Ride or race? 

As the posts and comment continue to appear on social and various other media channels about the Indian Pacific Wheel Race I too have reflected on this unsupported race and the impact of another tragedy on cyclists and cycling.

When this epic was launched I was asked by a friend to join him on the race. I was extremely surprised that he would even contemplate such an event and declined. I couldn’t imagine sitting on my arse for the hours required to be even slightly competitive let alone do the training. I also wonder at what compels folks to enter such an event - adventure aside.  

I looked at the race occasionally, it was passing my front door on the Great Ocean Road and I chatted to a Dutch participant in Apollo Bay as he passed through. The race was cancelled after a tragedy and the riders gathered in memory of Mike Hall’s death. In the aftermath there was consensus from a mostly European contingent that Australia was, in their experience one of the most dangerous places in the world, to ride.

Many riders have continued on, we just popped down the drive to see and chat to the youngest competitor, unfazed by the adventure and sporting a new toothless grin.

I also wonder at the impact of this tragedy on the wider community. The competitors, those involved in the accident and the organisers who, to be fair have tried to create an event/epic that could be financially viable for themselves.

At a time when so many in the community have a level of anger at cyclists, how can we continue the education of the wider community about the benefits of cycling when this community is also impacted by the increasing number of tragedies on the road.  There are calls for lights and bright clothing from concerned drivers and the like while in the meantime the rank and file of cyclists are endangering themselves by riding/training zoned out. Banning headphones on bikes (any bike) would seem a first essential step in protecting every road user.

At a time when there are constant rants about Cycling Australia and their disconnect with the cycling community the question needs to asked, what is the cycling community and should CA be involved in events that are not races, but called races. Epics which don’t need permits or require signage and traffic management but which significantly impact the cycling community. Events which I and other cycling entities use, for social media promotion of our associated brands.  If CA were the body to sanction such events, would we be safer or would it impede the growth of the fledgling cycling culture evolving in Australia?  

CA is our governing body, they cover off all levels of cycle ‘racing’ in all streams. "The Indian Pacific Wheel Race" is moniker for an event that is not a race but which promotes the racing elements of the ride. 

I don’t have the answers. The historic rides of Oppy and the like were precursors to stage races and grand tours.
  • Stage races: are governed and provide an opportunity for epic rides, closed roads and a higher level of rider safety. 
  • If you want to race - join a club and race in a protected and graded environment. Even on open roads clubs have marshals and signage that offer some protection.
  • When you train, take some care and responsibility as this is where culture and governance are confused.

The night I heard about Mike Hall’s death in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race I was agonized by the tragedy. I still am.

Cycling Media really needs to sit back and consider the implications of their own reporting. Like Trump some are masters of their own media but profits and promotion is not what cycling is about.  In the modern era replication of heroic endeavors, when there were very few cars on the road is about promotion and media and does not consider the dangers to participants or the public impacted by such a terrible tragedy

Written by