2023 Indi-Pac Day 1 Report

Saturday March 18, 2023: Finally…….race morning. It had been a lovely few days hanging out with family, exploring Perth by bike, carb loading and jetlag avoiding, but as my phone alarm bleated at me at 4:30am on the 3rd Saturday in March, it was time! Time to get my arse into gear and to race my bike across the Greatest of the Southern Lands.

Giddyup!

I promptly dressed into the brightly coloured attire (Be seen I say!), a nod to the once mighty Wallabies, that would be my uniform for the next 3 to 4 weeks on the road. How brightly coloured (and aromatic) by the end of the adventure was anyone’s guess. A voluminous serving of porridge and black coffee was then on the cards. I was far from hungry but forced it down knowing that every last calorie would be called upon during the day, and maybe even into the next. Matters were gonna get rather remote pretty damn soon. I’d spent countless hours over the last few months preparing my route notes and I was very much aware of the lack of services between the York rest-stop at kilometre 126 and Port Augusta at kilometre 2,448.

I’d made plenty of refueling cock-up during the 3 ultra events I’d already participated in, in the US and Ireland and sort of learned from them, but the remoteness of the first half of the Ind-Pac route in particular was going to make that hard earned experience pretty much redundant.

Some stats to illustrate the point:

  • Population density of the US = 37 people and 45 guns per square kilometre (not too mention way too many MAGA nut-jobs),
  • Population density of Ireland = 73 people and 102 sheep per square kilometre,
  • Population density of Australia = 3.5 people, 8 kangaroos and a shit-ton of poisonous snakes & spiders per square kilometre.

Perhaps woken by the porridge slurping I was soon joined by Mum, Dad and my sister, Janet. They all read the room perfectly and avoided any non essential conversation with yours truly – the standard pre-race nerves were kicking in and I wasn’t up for any idle chit chat. Bless them! It really had been a magic few days catching up though. It was the first time I had seen them in person for 4 years, by far the longest time between servings of Mum’s legendary lasagna since my wife, Melissa and I relocated overseas in 2004. Damn Covid! Their company hit the spot as did their assistance with the inevitable last minute logistical issues, not least of which was a massive fail with my Apidura seat pack that required the combination of super glue and Mum’s exemplary sowing skills to bring the essential item back to something approaching functionality.

Dad was also put to work. He particularly enjoyed the task that involved extracting Enzo’s Chamois cream, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste and 2 variety of sunscreen from their respective receptacles and re-sealing them in smaller, more bike-packing friendly containers. Perhaps a comforting reminder of his days as an Industrial Chemist.

Saturday March 18, 2023. The “Last Breakfast”.

Saturday March 18, 2023: The Fam!

Saturday March 18, 2023: Shame Apidura, shame!

Saturday March 18, 2023: All hands on deck!

Shit, 5:30am. Better make tracks. 

My beachside home since Wednesday, an AirBnb in Cottesloe was a good 30 minutes ride to the start in Fremantle. The irrepressible Damian Van Loom, a central figure in the unofficial organising committee of the now unofficial Indian Pacific Wheel Ride, had been quite clear in his speech at the rider event 2 nights back that if we wanted him to take an individual photo of us in front of the South Mole Lighthouse, then we needed to be at the start line by 6am.

I’m always up for a memento of my MAMIL’ian antics so without further ado I was off into the coolish pre dawn morning, a fresh south-easterly extracting any remaining drowsiness from the early rise. I was not concerned about the wind – I noted it in the context of my recently acquired knowledge that Perth was a windy place. At some point in the day it would change direction……..surely.

Besides, I was too bloody excited about yet another adventure of a life time which was now only minutes away from starting. Ever since getting into this self supported, ultra distance cycling malarkey 6 years ago I had had my eyes on, and dreamt about participating in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. I dot-watched the inaugural 2017 race and was awestruck by the exploits of Mike Hall, Kristof Allegaert, Sarah Hammond et al at the pointy end and totally absorbed by the stories of those further back in the field that had more time and energy to share their adventures via social media. (I was learning plenty from these hardy mid-pack legends for my first Trans Am tilt later in that year). Despite bugger all media coverage the way the Australian public embraced the race was extraordinary. The footage of Kristof who was leading the race at the time, being welcomed into Adelaide by the Lord Mayor in the company of hundreds of fans, and the resultant delighted shock on his face, brought a tear to my eye.

As an Aussie there is plenty to be proud about……..our curiosity of and passion for all matters sport, adventure and grit is pretty close to the top of the list for mine. The Indi-Pac as an official, centrally organised race in 2017 had all the above in spades, as has the unofficial ride since 2018.

Unofficial yes,  and more informally convened via a Facebook Group but there are some very dedicated and passionate people whose recurrent involvement make this an essential bucket list event for ultra distance mad bastard cyclists everywhere. OK, might as well get some tributes out of the way early – my apologies if I miss anyone and/or get any of the following info wrong:

  • Damian Van Loon – Facebook Group admin, organiser & MC of pre-race rider event, Indi-Pac veteran and very accomplished ultra cyclist.
  • Martine Van Loon – Facebook Group admin, frequent race update poster and organiser of pre-race rider event.
  • John Pearson, aka “Binky Farmbush” – Facebook Group admin, Indi-Pac content creator, Indi-Pac veteran.
  • Luke Jeffrey – Facebook Group admin, organiser of Indi-Pac rider WhatsApp Group, Indi -Pac veteran, Cultural Attaché Extraordinaire for all matters cycling in Melbourne and Top Bloke!
  • Joanne McCabe – very generous host and organiser of the York Pit-stop, as well as supplier of mementos for the riders – this year a lovely little token the shape of a bicycle.

But I digress….

…..so yes, I was pumped as I pedaled south along the coast to the start. As I turned left onto Tydeman Rd I saw a couple of red blinking lights a couple of hundred metres in front – fellow Indi-Pac’ers perhaps? Keen for a chat I put the foot down to catch up but they were way too quick for me. A bit further on though I caught them at a red light.

Well whata ya know it was none other they Colin Ottaway, aka “Otters” and his mate Darryl. Otters was none other than the winner of last years ride, who did so in style – literally, due to his penchant for funky bib shorts but also due to his generous sharing of his ride via social media. Both lads were heading to the start of the Indi-Pac to support this years riders and then they were out for a day on the bike.

We chatted for a bit, I got the encouraging seal of approval from Otters for my streamlined bike set up and before I knew it we were rolling into the historical port city of Fremantle at the mouth of Swan River. There was quite the crowd already there and I got the impression I must have been one of the last riders to arrive, but thankfully in time for the Lighthouse snap.

…..and then a lovely chat with expat American and Marine Corp Veteran, now local Perth Boy, Scott Lee who I had actually dot-watched during last years ride. A very strong finish on his second attempt. Scott, a real gent had some very useful tips in regards weather proofing my rear blinky lights. This is his blurb on his MAProgress Page which gives you a good insight into the man:

“Had two close old school friends recently die – too early. Life is short. Eat more possum.”

Yet another cracking human that I have met in the ultra cycling community. (No arseholes to date…….well, actually maybe 1 but that is another story)

Saturday March 18, 2023: Otters and Darryl en route to the start.

Saturday March 18, 2023: All clean and sparkly in the dawn light.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Chatting with Scott Lee.

The Start

In the interest of keeping the word count down I choose to tell the story of the start of the 2023 Indian Pacific Wheel Ride via the medium of photo and videos from the ride Facebook Page…….

Saturday March 18, 2023: The class of 2023.

Gone Racin’

And then, all of a sudden we were off, in a way that could only be described as the complete opposite to that of how horse and jockey exit the stalls in the Melbourne Cup. Plenty of champing at the bit yes, however us Indi-Pac riders had the benefit of a little more distance to get in rhythm – a whole bloody continent to be exact. 25 riders – 17 Aussies, 5 Brits, 1 Croatian and 1 Kiwi. 22 blokes, 3 ladies. 24 bikes, 1 velomobile.

I ambled over to Mum, Dad and Janet (2:45 in the last vid) who had driven their rental car from the AirBnb to the start. There may well have been a coupla tears in the brief exchanges of Bon Voyage and See ya at the Opera House…..

For each Indi-Pac competitor they would have been another 1-2 local cyclists out for a Saturday morning ride so it was quite a large group that headed east out of Fremantle into the Perth suburbs. It didn’t take long though for the field to string out. I tapped away sensibly within myself trying not to succumb to the excitement of the moment – settling into a steady rhythm early the key to a long day in the saddle. Geoff Harris from New Zealand (aka “Just Geoff”) was reading from a similar hymn sheet and we found ourselves riding in each others company as the route followed the busy South Street and then on to the comparative tranquility of a bike path. I had been riding in Perth for a few days now and was very impressed with the cycling infrastructure.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Its happening.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Its happening Take 2.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Following Geoff.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Following Geoff Take 2.

The Perth Hills

My common sense approach didn’t last long. I was feeling a tad low energy and thought I’d put in a few bursts of effort to get the blood pumping. Those few bursts turned into longer, harder efforts where I was essentially racing, or at least trying to keep up with the guys that were out there on their Saturday morning ride, who were completely unencumbered by all the bike-backing accoutrement that I was lugging around – ie food, water and clobber.

The words stupid and dickhead come to mind!

By the time I got to the foot of a rather steep climb (The ‘Crystal Brook Climb’ on Strava – 1.1km @ 9.1%) I was blowing pretty hard and by the time I got to the top I was……fucked, burping out a couple of dry retches as I struggled on past dot-watcher Elsbeth Marshall who I was taking photos from the side of the road. Thank goodness the Porridge stayed where it belonged. I don’t know what Elsbeth’s price would have been but I would have doubled it to keep that photo off the Internet….

The dry retching really worried me actually. That should not be happening. Yes I had stupidly over exerted myself but nowhere near to that extent. I pulled to the side of the road for 5 minutes to gather myself and then it was back into it.

2 hours and 35 hilly kilometres later after a rather close pass by some bloke who thought he was Mick Doohan (5 x 500cc World Champ in the 90’s), an in-ride interview by YouTuber Andy C,  and fly by photo’s complements of Dot-watcher’s  Jesse Wicks near Mundaring Weir and Peter Constable in the town of Mundaring, a version of equilibrium had been restored. I was noticeably still missing a couple of cylinder’s energy wise though – illness, jetlag, or simply just a case of being a stupid dickhead and going too hard too early? Who knew. It really didn’t matter why, I had one thing to do and that was to push the fucking pedals.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Following Geoff Take 3.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Stay where you are breakfast…….please!!

Saturday March 18, 2023: Go Mick!

Saturday March 18, 2023: My 5 minutes of YouTube fame. (a screenshot of Andy C’s vid)

Saturday March 18, 2023: Enjoying the rare descent in the Perth Hills.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Rounding the round about in Mundaring.

Outa Dodge Into The Sticks….

From Mundaring, onto the Great Eastern Highway for a bit and then a right turn onto the Great Southern Highway. I had intended not stopping for food and/or drink until the York Rest-stop but I needed a cold pick me up so I stopped at the BP Servo (so nice to type that instead of Gas Station I must say) on the corner of the two Highways. Coke, Magnum, cold water and the first 2 of 100+ Crunchies that would consumed over the next few weeks.

There is simply no better chocolate bar that exists on this fair planet. Cadbury needs to start exporting them to the US toute freakin’ suit! And so Bike-Packing friendly too – at last 5 can be stored in the standard sized food pouch + the Honeycomb doesn’t bloody well melt!!

But I digress……yep, again!

I needlessly rushed the stop. There were quite a few riders at the Servo, not Indi-Pac racers but club cyclists out for the day. Actually I hadn’t seen an Indi-Pac rider since Kiwi Geoff way back on Vomit Hill. However Stupid Dickhead was back in charge and in a hurry. He then proceeded to race the club cyclists for the next 50k’s to York. Race is not quite accurate actually – they passed me like I was standing still just past the servo and every now and then I’d catch a glimpse of them on the horizon and put in a little dig in a vein attempt to close the gap but they were way too fast.

Definitely out of the Perth city limits now, past the Perth Hills and out into the sticks, or more accurately the Wheatbelt, one of the nine economic regions of Western Australia (WA).

Saturday March 18, 2023: Into the sticks.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Into the sticks. Take 2.

The York Reststop

There are so, so many examples of human nature at its best on the Indi-Pac route. The first such example is the York Rest-stop in the Wheatbelt town of York, the oldest inland town in WA, which is hosted by Joanne McCabe. Tis’ a real Oasis 125ks from the start where us riders want for nothing. The only problem is getting too comfortable and staying too long.

When I rolled up at around 12:30pm it was quite the hive of activity….

Saturday March 18, 2023: Rolling into the York Rest-stop.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Here’s looking at you Martine.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Otters, you are everywhere!

Early Struggles

After around 40 minutes of jamming everything I could into either my mouth or bike bags, I was back on the road. It was starting to get a little warm, a far cry from the below freezing maximum temperatures I had left behind in Philadelphia earlier in the week, and as a result I was getting through my water a lot quicker than anticipated.

Despite the now flattish terrain my pace was also sluggish due to a pain in the arse south easterly which was either blowing almost directly into my face or across the bows from the left.

And I lost my earphones.

Oh woe is me!

Despite all the calories consumed in York only 40ks back my energy levels were cratering.

What the fuck is wrong with me?!

Oh well fuck it, time for a snooze!

And so at the next roadside shade which was becoming less and less available I pulled over, rested my bike up against a fence and proceeded to lay down in the dirt using my helmet as a pillow.

Ahhhh, thats better!

Every now and again I’d open my eyes and see an Indi-Pac rider roll past. First Sinisa Babic (aka “Mad Max Crockatansky”) from Croatia. I swear he yelled out “Soft Bastard” in his native tongue. Then, Matthew Beale (aka “avagoyamug”), then Diane (aka “dibbear”), then Dale Tan (aka “Dale Tan”), then Geoff Harris (aka “Just Geoff”, aka “Kiwi Geoff”) and Brit Ian Copper (aka “iandipac”).

It was really not that long a snooze but it obviously provided enough time for 25% of the damn field to leave me in their dust.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Its getting a little warm now.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Snooze o’clock.

Reality Bites…

Yep reality was certainly biting.

By the time I reached the town of Quairading with 195ks under the belt I was pretty much out of water. I was using a roaming US mobile phone and coverage was not the best but I had picked up chat in the WhatsApp group that all services in town were closed due to a Blackout.

Bugger me, this ride really is going to require me to keep my wits about me. Proper planning for adequate on bike water storage and consumption, in particular is gonna be essential.

Thank goodness the chat also included instructions for accessing drinkable water out the back of the closed BP servo.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Entering Quairading.

Saturday March 18, 2023: The BP in Quairading.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Not much doing on the main drag of Quairading.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Exiting Quairading.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Sun at my back now.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Out into the evening.

A Revised Plan

The following tells the story…..

Saturday March 18, 2023: The dark closed in pretty quick….

Saturday March 18, 2023: The dark closed in pretty quick. Take 2.

Saturday March 18, 2023: My digs for the night, a picnic table in Shackleton.

Saturday March 18, 2023: Room with a view…

The Day According to Strava

 

 

CONTINUE TO DAY 2?………………..CLICK HERE.

3 Comments
  • Sonny Rasmussen
    Posted at 20:50h, 09 February Reply

    Ohhhh. I loved your remark. I am looking for my 2025 IPWR – and noted for the Vomit Hill 🙂

  • Sonny Rasmussen
    Posted at 20:51h, 09 February Reply

    *looking forward

  • Tim James
    Posted at 21:10h, 09 February Reply

    That’s a great start. Looking forward to more!

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