• Cycling journalist Rupert Guinness. (SBS News)Source: SBS News
Cycling journalist Rupert Guinness is gearing up to test his own athletic mettle in an epic cycling race from one side of Australia to the other.
Michael Tomalaris

Cycling Central
8 Mar 2017 - 7:52 AM 

For more than 30 years Rupert Guinness has traversed the world of cycling in search of a good yarn.

Having covered some of the biggest races both domestically in Australia and on the international stage, including the Tour de France, he is recognised globally for his work covering the sport.

But later this month, Guinness will swap his notebook and laptop for a bike as he undertakes the biggest challenge of his life.

Along with some 80 other international cyclists, Guinness will take to the start line in Fremantle for the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race - one of the unique events on two wheels.

Riders will cover almost 5500 kilometres across the width of the continent before finishing on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

The rules stipulate that riders must compete alone, unsupported and fend for themselves.

They must find food and water, sleep under the stars, battle their way through expected harsh weather conditions, monitor their own health and be physically and mentally capable of attempting such an enormous task.

But rather than report on the event as a journalist, 55-year-old Guinness will wear lycra and battle the elements in a bid to compete and complete it.

According to Guinness, there's a variety of reasons why one would take on a journey when there are no guarantees of finishing.

"I was drawn in by the challenge of riding across Australia the long way and also being to able to find what I've got within myself," he said.

"We [journalists] spend so much time reporting on athletes and the limits they have, this is an opportunity to find out what my limits are and to find what's out there on the edge."

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The historical significance of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race cannot be overlooked.

It's being held out of respect to "the Overlander" - riders who traversed the Australian continent in the late 19th century well before motorised vehicles were invented.

It also marks the 80th anniversary since legendary Australian cyclist Hubert Opperman rode his bicycle from Fremantle to Sydney on unchartered roads.

"This kind of history has gone unnoticed," Guinness said.

As the nerves start to increase in the lead-up to the start at 6am on March 18, a typical day for the riders can be summed up in one word - long.

Sleep deprivation is a prerequisite in order to be among the first across the finish line and Guinness says his days will start and finish in darkness.

"The plan for me is to try and ride 12-15 hours a day," Guinness said.

"Hopefully, I can cover up to 300 kilometres each day. The riders leading the race will probably ride up to 20 hours a day and obviously cover a bigger distance."

Guinness admits there are inherent dangers in competing in such an event for the first time.

"You can have too much of a plan in these types of events," he said.

"The idea is to be ready to plan when something happens and to immediately respond."

Family members, friends and even high profile elite cyclists have labelled Guinness "crazy" for attempting such a challenge.

But Guinness will use a custom-made bike with all the resources needed for this journey and he hopes to cover the distance in under three weeks.

He will carry all his food, water and clothing with him on his bike, and Guinness says the water will be the most important with long days spent under the burning Nullarbor Plain sun.

All riders will be equipped with a GPS tracking system and Guinness hopes to provide a live update of his journey through Facebook at the end of each day.