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Trans–Am —
The post–race interview

with Martin Henrysson. Rider. Finisher.

*Warning — there’s some bad language in this write–up which we’ve decided not to bleep out.

Yes. Martin finished the Trans-Am race back in June 2019. Yes, we’re only just posting this in February 2020. We won’t make excuses for the delay. Good things come to those who wait. Brainy quotes look good on websites.

“Time is a storm in which we are all lost”

— William Carlos Williams

Q&A Session

A reminder — Martin rode the 2019 edition of the Trans–Am race in the pairs category with his friend Christian. Not only did they win, they also set the fastest time ever recorded in the pairs category.

Martin was riding in HIGH&OVER jersey, bib shorts and socks. He was riding on a pair of dynamo wheels supplied by Hunt Bike wheels.

We sat with Martin in an oh-so-Södermalm bar to talk through his memories of the Trans–Am race. Ups. Downs. Truths. Lies. Whatever he could remember and felt like sharing.

HIGH&OVER —
Happy with your Hunt bike wheels?

Martin Henrysson —

They were faultless. I did’t have any doubts at all as my friends had ridden events like the TCR on them. I also had some Hunts before which I used on the Uppsala-Trondheim-Uppsala ride.

If I’d have built them myself or they were made by a wheel builder I didn’t trust, it’d have been a different story. But in this case I didn’t even have to think about them failing on me.

I know this sounds like bullshit but I’m serious.

H&O —
How about your HIGH&OVER cycling apparel?

MH —

Beyond happy — it’s super comfy kit and stood up to the test. The bibs were especially good — they sure went through a lot and I didn’t even use the second pair, which was surprising as I thought I’d need them at some point (I mailed them to a half-way point, then mailed them to New York).

H&O —
We hung out pretty regularly in the build-up but I didn’t see you off at the airport. How was the flight over?

MH —

The anticipation built and built. The last couple of weeks in the run-up were super stressful. Full of tiny details you feel are so important. Once I was on the plane I knew I couldn’t do much more.

Landing there was nice. There was no drama getting our stuff off the plane. I broke my Leatherman but no big deal. We had a lay-over in London and I’d heard luggage can go missing easily in that situation, but we got away with it I guess.

H&O —
Vibes at the start?

MH —

So many people in reflective vests. I felt terrible. It was cold It was dark. Maybe it was raining a bit.

They changed the roll-out from 6am to 5am at short notice. Kinda of nice to get going that bit sooner.

We’d decided on not going with the front group. We wanted to stay ahead, but not go crazy because we knew others would go really hard from the start. We wanted to stick to our plan which was to do a solid 300km at a steady pace. We thought we’d catch up with others eventually, which we did.

Since we were allowed to ride with others and draft in the first 100 miles we rode with this guy Luke from (German, from CH). Was really nice riding with him but we got caught in a photo which made it to Facebook and had people accusing us of breaking the rules.

I had to text my friends “It’s cool, it’s cool — drafting was OK’d for the first 100 miles.”

H&O —
The ride was pretty much 3 weeks in total. What was the general experience of the first week?

MH —

First night was a bed and breakfast for $180 outside Eugene, by the river. We thought “OK, we can’t do this every night”. But we’d made it to the first stop quite early and wanted to get a good night’s sleep, so this felt good. Home made pizza. Home made beer. The hosts even washed our clothes. We set off 5am.

After Euguene it got hilly pretty quickly. It was hot and sunny and we both felt great and riding well. Except for the paved road, I just kept thinking the place looked like Red Dead Redemption.

We camped outdoors on the second night (to try claw back some budget). We’d heard there was a community hall that was open in a village but we didn’t find it, so we slept on a porch in an RV park (South Fork RV park). We were pretty harshly told we weren’t allowed to in the morning, we apologised and rode on.

Man that was beautiful around there.

The dry air was causing some health problems with our breathing. Christian was suffering with a really sore throat. We had heard it helped to snort water, so he tried it and it worked. Over the next few days we rode through the rest of Oregon and into Idaho.

There was no drama crossing our first state border. There was a definite feeling of accomplishment, but not much else.

Day 5 was the LoLo Pass. We’d heard this was 150 miles of unsupported riding. There were signs saying “No services for the next 150 miles”.

Water was a concern but we were OK. The clouds gave cover from the sun. It was perfect.

Goes to show you can have totally different experiences in the same spot. We crossed from Idaho to Montana on day 5.

Day 6 we got caught in a blizzard with temperatures below freezing. I mean that was just sad. It was like that all day. I think this was my first bad day. We were in a place called Ennis and stopped to try warm up. I was super cold. I had had 6 cheese burgers from McDonald’s because, you know, when you find a McDonald’s you think “Oh, this is good food”.

I threw up and I lost all energy. We were climbing, which as fine, but then we rode downhill for 20 minutes to meet an angry gas station attendant who looked like Weird Al. The others there weren’t nice either and just want to tell us what not to do.

I just wanted to stop and warm up but we didn’t want to stop there. We kept on pushing without a place to stay decided we just wanted to go really really far (this was a short day, we only did 260km).

Then it started snowing. The rain turned into heavy snow. It was just miserable.

00:00 — we showed up at a fishing lodge. Like everywhere in the US they closed at 8 and we hadn’t booked. We knocked on the owner’s door and he graciously gave us a lodge for $230. I wasn’t thinking straight by then. I was walking around making random noises and being super miserable. The other guests heard me and must have thought “These guys are fucking nuts”.

It turns out this other guy, Garth, who was in the race, was in the lodge next to us.

This was the hardest part for me for sure.

Day 7 we crossed Yellow Stone. The day we did something heroic. This is when we caught up with a lot of people. We had a hotel booked in a place called Dubois. There was shit loads of snow and many roads were closed to cars. While others were waiting for the roads to open we had a burger with Garth, then decided “Fuck it we’re gonna ride anyway”.

There was a big climb between us and our hotel. It was super cold and wet. So cold ice was forming as our tyres were pushing the water aside from the road. I’d not seen this before, even during really cold Swedish winters. It kind of looked like the haircut the guy who died from the Prodigy had.

I was scared thinking about the descent that awaited us after the climb. I was holding on to my brakes super hard and we made it. Upright.

We heard later Garth had tried to follow us but turned back due to the ice. We made it through. We’d just made it through.

Martin's first week on Strava —

Day 1 — Day 2 — Day 3 — Day 4 — Day 5 — Day 6 — Day 7

H&O —
So on to week 2. I'll let you do the talking.

MH —

Wyoming. This is where we catch up with Italians.

We saw two guys standing by the road changing from morning gear (it’s cold every morning because we’re at 1000m above sea level) to their day time gear (most mornings I rode in a down jacket).

Another game of leapfrog, but it felt like we were maybe offending them each time we passed them. They’re competitive, you can tell, right? And when you know someone is competitive, you put in a little extra effort each time you pass them (just for fun — nowhere near pushing it). We didn’t talk much, it was mostly left unsaid.

By this time we were placed roughly top 10. The top 3 were way ahead, the rest of us were quite close together. Us, Garth, the Italians. Peter Jackson.

The road to Jeffrey city was a tough section. The roads were super straight and super long without much elevation. We had pretty unfavourable winds. It was a draining section.

We’d been warned Jeffrey City, a former uranium mining town, wasn’t a nice place. Basically shut down. We’d been told “Don’t stay there”. So what do you think is the first language we hear when we pass through here? Russian. That’s just too much.

Most nights since the start we were staying in hotels and motels. Motel food is horrible.

On day 8 we arrived in Rawlins super late due to some mechanicals. I headed out to get food and saw a McDonald’s, but however hard I tried I couldn’t find the entry road to it. It’s hard to concentrate on finding fast food restaurants at 11pm after a 330km day.

So instead I went to Burger King. The guys there asked me where I was staying. They warned me there was a certain chain of economy lodges that the meth heads enjoy. Thankfully we weren’t in that lodge.

Day 9. Colorado. My worst day.

We had to climb a pass and I just suffered a massive bonk. Sun stroke. Lack of food and energy. I still managed to climb the pass and at the top I thought “I’m feeling pretty good” and managed to ride into the evening.

Colorado was beautiful. That was the tallest point — Hoosier Pass, 3500m-ish high. It was hard on us, then outside Cañon City my buddy got a flat we just couldn’t fix. Two guys who’d been riding bikes forever and we pinched a tube every time. We destroyed all our spare tubes, patched them up, tried again. Didn’t work. Finally we managed but every 5km we had to stop to top up the air. It was shit. I might have made both of us cry.

Fury.

We reached this place Pueblo — it was super late and we needed a bike shop for spare tubes and try get his tyres set up tubeless. He had the equipment for it, we just needed to sort it.

Early the next morning. A breakfast at Taco Bell and then a bike shop opened early for us. A tiny old lady set my buddies tyres up tubeless in 5 minutes. We made some other running repairs. $200 later we left with bikes running nicely.

This shop really sorted us out. The only mechanical issue after this was a snapped seatpost bolt in Kansas.

So Kansas. Day 11. Half way.

I mean, look at the route. Look at the elevation gain over almost 400km. It was either downhill or flat. It’s insane. We had a pretty good tail wind.

Kansas has the BEST gas station food. Casey’s had home made burgers, friendly staff, clean toilets (at least when we arrived).

Kansas had a lot of silos. One day we saw a silo on the horizon. We kept going for it. We got to it and we saw another one. We went for it, we got to it, and we saw another one. It all looked exactly the same.

Eagles. Home of the Eagles. I was like “The band the Eagles?”

The snapped seat post.

If you ever have any mechanical issues, try to get them fixed in a town or city.

Christian’s bolt snapped while adjusting it at a gas station getting food. Within 10 minutes we had a replacement (hack) bolt.

It’s interesting what I generally consider as shit food can make you happy. I wouldn’t sit down for a salad or a steak or something. So shit food is suddenly great food. The amount of candy we had. The amount of candy that I changed my opinion on. Like Snickers. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Snickers my whole life. Like during Paris-Brest-Paris I ate 24 Snickers. It was sick. I have a hard time but I mean if it’s the only thing that’s around eat it, but I used to like them a lot more.

Martin's second week on Strava —

Day 8 — Day 9 — Day 10 — Day 11 — Day 12 — Day 13 — Day 14

H&O —
And so week 3. The home straight.

MH —

Into Missouri/Misery.

The Missisipi was flooded. Not only did we cross it, we rode in it. Pretty cool.

We saw a bald headed eagle feasting on something. I don’t know what, a snake?

It was day 15 and this was when I started thinking I wanted it to end. I mean it was beautiful, but I just fucking wanted to reach Virginia. York Town.

No more mechanicals from here to home. I was having to crack the whip, trying to reduce the number of stops we made and push on at every opportunity. There wasn’t much socialising. Not many positive feelings about the ride or between us as a pair.

There’s the race aspect right? We had the Italians. Garth was just there. Peter Jackson was around. We didn’t think we have too many behind us but you never know — someone could put in a big shift over night and catch right up.

I would say I was focused more on the race than Christian. It was always on my mind where it wasn’t so much on his. I wanted to compete. He didn’t so much. It can really take the upper hand of the experience and to a certain extent it did with ours. Also, if you don’t push, you’re just going to have ride further the next day. So I just wanted to ride as far possible in these last days because, “don’t do tomorrow what you could do today”. There’s no way I’m quitting or I’m giving up, but why the fuck?

It was especially hilly in the Ozarks. I think Christian was thinking “Why the fuck is it so hilly?”.

I just had my mind set on reaching York Town.

But we stuck to the plan, We did some shorter days. We did some longer days.

Even though we weren’t speaking that much it was still such a mental relief to have a friend with you. And because now I have someone to share it with forever.

I don’t think I’d have signed-up on my own because I’ve never ridden this far before. I know I am pretty good at riding long distances for a few days, but over three weeks? I didn’t know how it’d affect me or how I’d feel about it, but I did enjoy it – but most of it was just painful. Or not painful, mentally taxing I’d say.

Day 20. Second to last day.

We were behind Garth. We were behind the Italians. Peter Jackson was pushing up ahead too.

We were riding in a forest on a ridge in the Appalachian mountains. We were grinding, taking shorter breaks than the others and sticking to our plan.

The road was super beautiful and I suddenly felt like “OK I need to sleep and I need to sleep now”. It was midnight probably. Our third night sleeping outdoors.

We knew there was some sort of hostel where we could sleep for free but I thought that was way ahead of us but it turned out it was just a few kms away. A few kms of downhill riding! Or we were sleeping in a car park.

I was close to sleep while pedalling. The irony that for the days before, I was the one pushing and hassling, and yet now I’m saying I can’t go on.

The riders ahead had a better pace. We saw that, on the last day, we were behind. They were going faster than us and we didn’t have anyone close behind. That was sort of a relief. The race was over. We still had 300km to go, but we didn’t have to push.

Still, the feeling was there. We wanted to reach the finish line as soon as possible. We had our friend Anton (former trans-am & TCR finisher) waiting for us — he’d driven al the way from New York to meet us.

I must say that as much fun as the last 20km was, right in the dark, I just wanted it to end. The surface was terrible. The road was made up of huge concrete slabs – that horrible du-dunk, du-dunk, between each one. As bad as it sounds, it was underwhelming to reach the monument in York Town.

But the good thing was Garth and Anton were there. We had a really nice hotel. They bought us amazing food.

It’s over. I’ve been longing for this for a week. I was super happy but I thought I’d feel differently. I thought I’d feel more.

I’ve ridden shorter races where I’ve been crying near the finish line. I was super happy to see Anton. I was super happy to see Garth. But still there was this feeling missing. Maybe I need to go back and do it all again to really get that feeling?

H&O —
Is a big part of that because you think you can go faster?

MH —

I mean, I know I can. But also, me and Chris, we did it. He’s going to do the Silk Road Mountain Race next year. I’ll do the Sverigetempot.

There’s so much riding to do, right?

Martin's third week on Strava —

Day 15 — Day 16 — Day 17Day 18 — Day 19 — Day 20 — Day 21

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