Author(s): Bret Harris
Four years before the inaugural Tour de France, four cyclists known as 'Overlanders' set out on a race around Australia. On 24 November 1896 a wiry and wily bushman named Arthur Richardson left Coolgardie for Adelaide by bicycle. Carrying only a small kit and a water-bag, he followed the telegraph line. After much 'sweating and swearing' on sandy roads west of Eucla, and enduring the scorching heat, 31 days later he became the first man to pedal across the Nullarbor. But within three years Richardson had set his sights on becoming the first person to ride around the vast island continent, not yet a nation, and some 18,507km. On 5 June, 1899, he left Perth, heading north, carrying no more than a swag and a pistol. It took courage, self-confidence, endurance and resourcefulness to tackle such a ride. Richardson would follow dirt tracks, cattle and camel pads and stars in the night sky as he battled thirst, hunger, exhaustion, crocodile attack and spears from Aboriginal warriors to realize his dream. But he also had competition...another party of cyclists with the same ambition. New Zealand-born Brothers Frank and Alex White and wealthy adventurer Donald Mackay from Wallandbeen Station, NSW, were attempting the ride in a counter-clockwise direction from Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. Set against the fledging pastoralist empires of pre-Federation Australia, Tour de Oz, is the extraordinarily true story of a remarkable race to 'circumcycle' the Australian continent - before we became a nation.
Bret Harris is a former senior sports writer with The Australian newspaper. In a career spanning thirty-nine years, Harris has written about a wide range of sports. He is known for his ability to break news stories, but also writes features, analysis and was fascinated about this unknown Australian story of cycling, adventure and ambition.