Yesterday was a normal day at work – passing through Baltimore – one more leg to Houston and then done. I was standing 20-deep in line at Chipotle buying supper for the flight attendants, so I checked my Facebook. Kerry’s post leapt from the screen … it said a cyclist had been hit in Australia and that Mike Hall’s dot had stopped at the exact location. Even as I write this now, tears are flowing because anyone who follows Mike’s dot knows … Mike’s dot NEVER STOPS.
My prayers joined Kerry’s “Please, please, God, no. Not Mike. Not Mike.”
I pushed my thoughts deep into the back room where I push things when I’m at work. Outwardly, I carried on, got our food and headed back to the airplane to take 139 folks to Houston. Meanwhile, in the back room, my alter ego paced back and forth like a caged animal repeating my desperate prayer, “Please, not Mike.”
I landed in Houston and taxied to Gate 4. When the last passenger got off, I shut down the jet and started walking out to the parking lot. I turned on my phone and almost immediately a message from Claire delivered the gut punch and confirmed my worst fears.
“It was him. Devastating. I can hardly believe it.”
“British competitor Mike Hall has died tragically during the first edition of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. Hall was struck by a car on the Monaro Highway south of Canberra at approximately 6:20 am on Friday morning.”
In a world where the word “hero” is used too much, Mike Hall was one of mine. He inspired me and many others to be better cyclists and better people than we would have been without him. He raced the width and breadth of the United States faster than any man ever has. This past summer, he did what many thought was impossible by winning the Tour Divide in record time: less than 14 days. He also won the inaugural TransAm race from Oregon to Virginia and was featured in the film by Mike Dion titled “Inspired to Ride.”
Like most world-class athletes, Mike did what he did with grace and humility, making the impossible look easy.
There’s a stretch on the Tour Divide in northern New Mexico where there are no services for hundreds of miles. In the middle of nowhere stands a lone forest service outpost called the Beaverhead Work Station. All TD racers speak in reverent tones about the work station because of one thing which can be found there: a Coke machine!
Many riders struggle for hours with only one thought in mind: that Coke machine. Some have arrived only to find it broken; others have arrived to discover they did not have the change needed for the precious elixr.
This past year, Mike was way out in front on his record-breaking run. He paused briefly at the Beaverhead Work Station and then delivered vital information to his fellow-racers via a call-in to MTBCast.
He said the Coke machine was indeed working and that he had left some change under a rock next to the machine for those who would be coming along behind him.
Just a small thing, but it says so much about what type of man he was. My prayers go out to Mike’s family and friends. His Spirit will live on with all of us. Tailwinds, my friend. Ride in Peace, Mike.