I didn’t know Mike Hall personally. I never had the privilege of meeting him. Instead I watched from afar the things that he did; admiring the rides that he undertook (and excelled at) and, each summer, I was transfixed by the TransCon – watching dots on a map tracking the riders in the non-stop, unsupported, trans-European that race he created and organised.
Mike’s death – hit and killed by a car on an Australian Highway in the early hours of Friday morning – stopped the world of long-distance cycling in it’s tracks. No-one embodied the sport of ultra-cycling/bike-packing/long-distance audax more than Mike. As a competitor and an organiser he represented both sides of the sport. And by excelling at both he inspired rivals and participants in equal, lofty, measure.
Mike’s palmares is as long and impressive as the types of rides that he performed so well in. When he won the World Cycle Race in 2012 in a time of 91 days 18 hours, Mike beat the previous record by over two weeks. He twice set record times in the Tour Divide – the 4,400km off-road race down the length of the Rockies; and he won the Pacific-Atlantic TransAm Bike Race in 2014. But it was the TransContinental that Mike was most closely associated with – even though he never took part as a competitor.
His desire to create a European version of the great American unsupported races like TransAm and the Tour Divide immediately found a willing audience – within three years the number of riders taking part swelled from 30 in 2013 to 350 in 2016. Run from Belgium to Istanbul, the TransCon differs from many other long-distance races by not having a set route. There is a start point, a finish point and a handful of Control locations that all racers must visit in the right sequence. Beyond that the routing is up the individuals themselves. It’s an obvious extension of Mike’s passion for independent endeavour and self-sufficiency. In his race you must make your own decisions and be judged by them.
The TransCon has been dominated by Kristof Allegaert, who has won every time he has entered; a total of three of the four editions. A first time head-to-head of Mike against Kristoff was of immense interest even to those of us who take a passing interest in ultra-cycling. Last months inaugural running of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race – an enormous 5,400km trip across the vastness of Southern Australia from Perth to Sydney – offered the unique opportunity to watch Mike and Kristof – two undisputed heavyweights of ultra-cycling – pit themselves against the road, the elements and each other.
True to expectations, both men lead from the outset. Kristof, often a fast starter, took the lead with Mike in close attendance in second place. Mike’s greater track record racing over longer periods meant that he was expected to come back in the latter stages of the race. And he did; after two weeks riding the race was very much in the balance when Mike was hit and killed by a car near Canberra in the early hours of Friday March 31st. The race was cancelled with immediate effect.
As an organiser and a racer Mike knew better than most the risks associated with ultra-cycling but he was also in the best position to recognise and manage those risks. He had already discussed on social media some of the ‘close pass’ incidents that he had experienced on the IndyPac and tried to warn the other riders of places where he encountered bad or aggressive driving.
The ultra-cycling community has come together since Mike’s death to rally around his family, his friends and his causes. Tribute rides have been organised around the world. A JustGiving page is raising funds to help with the cost of bringing Mike’s body home and other contributors to the TransCon are beginning the painful task of looking at how Mike’s legacy can be continued through the event that he created.
Please give both all the support that you can.
Ride In Peace Mike