“I always knew I was going to finish. Saying that, it was really hard.”
The Indian Pacific Wheel Race is an epic bike race across one of the most challenging landscapes in the world. Competitors cycle 5,470 kilometres from Fremantle in Western Australia to Sydney, travelling through cities, towns and national parks.
Sports journalist Rupert Guinness took on the challenge in 2017 – and again in 2018, after a tragic accident caused the 2017 race to be cancelled. GrownUps caught up with Rupert to find out more about cycling the IndiPac – not once but twice.
Rupert saw an ad for the race after researching the overlanders, the historic, “pioneers or adventurers who set off on their bikes discovering a lot of interior [of Australia].” He realised it’d be a chance to, “learn first-hand what it might have been like,” for the overlanders and, “a great opportunity for a bit of self-discovery.”
When Rupert entered the IndiPac race in 2017, he never expected to do it twice. Unfortunately, tragedy struck, and a competitor was killed in an accident two weeks into the race. Although Rupert has, “no qualms” about returning home after the accident, he regretted not finishing the ride. So when Rupert went back in 2018 to complete what he began, he says, “This time I didn’t have any thought of giving up – I’m not going to get a third chance.” And once Rupert arrived in Adelaide in 2018, “the adventure started again,” as he reached the point where one year earlier, he turned back.
“When I did it the first time, there were probably situations I could have handled better, like handling of punctures; I got myself into a bit of a muddle exacerbated by the fatigue,” Rupert says. “This year when I did it, I kept things simpler.”
Rupert gave himself more sleep this year, choosing to, “get up early, at say 2 or 3 am, when I’ve had a good sleep and there’s less traffic on the roads. The conditions are usually calmer.” He would finish riding around 6 – 8 pm, and, “tried to go to the smallest local pub I could find [and] speak to some of the local people [and] enjoy what their town and their pub has to offer.”
That said, Rupert says, “there were times I was feeling absolutely busted.” And after one stretch of 55 kilometres of climbing while riding through the Kosciuszko National Park, he was, “really on the brink of physical exhaustion.”
“Another challenge was the weather. Some days the weather was freezing and other days were in the mid-40s.” On one hot day on the Nullarbor Plain, Rupert actually ran out of water until a driver pulled over to offer him some. “I remember thinking as I still rode on … what an awful way it would be to die of thirst.”
Later that evening, when the sky turned pink and the sun was setting, Rupert reflected on the overlanders and, “how it must have been. What they did was phenomenal.”
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One man’s epic race to cross Australia.
A powerful memoir about an epic bike race across one of the most challenging landscapes in the world.