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Tragedy rocks the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride

62-year-old Chris "Caveman" Barker has been remembered as a "gentleman" and "an incredible adventurer".

Beloved ultra-endurance cyclist Chris “Caveman” Barker has been killed after being struck by a driver while competing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride (IPWR).

Western Australian Police initially reported that a 62-year-old male had been involved in a fatal crash on the Eyre Highway near Madura between 5:30am and 6:00am on Thursday morning. Barker’s identity was not publicly revealed until Thursday night when his son Aiden posted in the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride (Dot Watcher) page on Facebook.

“Hi to everyone here, on behalf of my family,” Aiden began. “As you are aware the incident today was the passing of Chris Barker, aka IPWRcaveman6, my dad. I can’t express how sad today is, dad was doing something that he loved. Thanks for the respect regarding today’s incident. I can’t thank you enough.

“I’ve never heard dad talk so much about this 1 event in my life, today my family lost a great person and so did his IPWR family. My heart is broken, I thank you all❤️”.

Aiden’s post prompted a flurry of heartfelt replies – 275 at the time of writing – with many expressing their admiration for Chris, both as a rider and as a person. Among them was veteran cycling journalist, Escape contributor, and IPWR finisher, Rupert Guinness.

“The esteem and love Chris is held in has been reflected in these many, many messages already,” Guinness wrote. “I would like to add mine, if it’s possible, to what so many have expressed. I recall in the 2017 IPWR when I was really struggling emotionally – or I thought – and his infectious smile and calm placed everything in perspective and helped me to appreciate what we were doing and life in general.

“He always did after 2017 – from the 2018 IPWR to recent days in correspondence. Chris was always encouraging and inspiring people. He still will … RIP Chris. Take care Aiden.”

Barker’s death comes seven years after the tragic death of ultra-endurance star Mike Hall in the first edition of the same event. Hall’s 2017 passing saw event organisers Jesse Carlsson and Sarah Hammond step away from the IPWR – then known as the Indian Pacific Wheel Race – with the event later being renamed the Indian Pacific Wheel Ride.

Hall’s mother, Patricia, was among those offering her condolences to Aiden Barker on Facebook on Thursday.

“I never met Chris but I felt I knew him,” she wrote. “I am devastated to learn of your loss and send you my heartfelt condolences at the loss of such a great man. He was always there for me and in his own way helping me through the loss of my son Mike Hall. I really do feel for you and your family.

“He will be sorely missed by me as well as hundreds of others from the Indy Pac family. Ride in Peace, Chris. So sorry. My heart breaks for you.”

The Indian Pacific Wheel Ride is a solo, unsupported, ultra-endurance challenge ride across Australia, from Fremantle in Western Australia to the steps of the Sydney Opera House. The course spans roughly 5,500 km and includes some of Australia’s most iconic locations: the Nullarbor Plain, the Adelaide Hills, Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, and the Australian Alps.

Event tracking for the 2024 IPWR shows that Barker was 1,313 km into his sixth attempt at the IPWR when he tragically lost his life.

The Escape Collective team extends its heartfelt condolences to Chris’s family, friends, and all that knew him within the ultra-endurance racing scene.