The folks who run the big events for the State Government and the Sydney City Council are smacking their lips. A brand new concept has just been unveiled to rival some of the greatest sporting events in the world. France might currently be staging the Tour de France but Australia has just announced the very first ‘Tour de Billycart’.
With the monorail now defunct Sydneysiders and the world at large need something to spark their imagination and what better than a classic billycart race using the much maligned bicycle paths that wind their way around our city. The master plan is soon put into operation and major sponsors are announced, with the various high-tech billycarts all baring the logos of the global corporate moguls. All except one!
As a concession to the City’s disadvantaged, a ‘wildcart’ entry has been allowed – a beaten-up old billycart that once belonged to the 1902 Australian street racing champ Victor Gollogly. In keeping with the family tradition his great grandson, ten year old Gary Gollogly will pilot the old wooden convenience, now so shabby that not even the most desperate sponsor will come on board.
As the hundred or so sleek aerodynamic machines line up for the start there are shrieks of laughter from the massive crowd as Gary and his fruit box buggy are quickly relegated to the rear of the starting grid. The Lord Mayor drops the flag and they’re off and racing with the palaton snaking its way down College Street on the first of two hundred gruelling laps of the city.
There’s an almighty spill the third time around as a Hyde Park possum darts across the track, quickly bringing down at least half the field. Toiling almost three hundred metres behind Gary manages to miss most of the carnage, although he sportingly stops for five minutes to help an injured rider off the road.
By lap one hundred and ninety nine the attrition rate has been enormous and only eight carts survive – seven of the biggest high-profile teams and Gary and his junk pile jalopy. The final dash to the finish is a perilous descent down the Bourke Street bicycle path, from Oxford Street in Darlinghurst to the finish at the foot of Woolloomooloo.
Miraculously Gary and his ultra-lightweight cart has now caught the leading, more heavily engineered, machines and as the remaining palaton hits the corner of Oxford and Bourke he suddenly scoots to the lead. Everybody loves an underdog, especially the Bourke Street backpackers and homeless guys from the Talbot, who line the street and bellow their support for Gary as he accelerates down the final strip with the finish line only seconds away.
Sadly that moment of unlikely victory is never to be. As he hits the corner of Bourke and Cathedral the 311 bus to Millers Point fails to observe the flimsy barricade and both Gary and his machine are flattened like the proverbial pancake. Ironically it’s the same corner where his great grandad Victor came to grief in the 1903 Cathedral Street dash when he collided with Sydney’s first ever steam driven car.
There are immediate cries of sabotage and conspiracy on the part of the big global teams. The publicity goes worldwide and the organisers wallow in the international exposure, albeit of a slightly tragic nature. Baz Lurhmann buys the film rights to the whole incident and “The Great Gollogly” hits the screen a year later as a massive 3D musical blockbuster. Despite the hype all the big sponsors pull their bucks, disgusted that it was a total nobody who gained all the attention. The billycarts are axed and with the blessing of the Shooters Party the State Government announces a new event for next year – a foxhunt in Centennial Park!