Matt Roy and the Art of Endurance

Matt Roy is a different kind of bike rider. Most of his exploits transpire in the middle of the night, alone or with a single partner, down a road not likely to show fresh tire tracks. He’s an ultra-cyclist and the other half of MM Racing with his wife and current single-speed cyclocross World Champion Mo Bruno Roy. High points of this season, for Matt, included completion of a full brevet series, 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km and 1000km. He rode from Bremerton on the western shore of Puget Sound near Seattle, down the Oregon coast and up to Crater Lake in Oregon, and then beyond that to Klamath Falls, a three day, 625-mile odyssey¬† undertaken with close friend David Wilcox.

Riding a bike for three days is not a thing that most cyclists, even the most ardent feel inclined to do. The thing that’s hard to fathom is how you avoid the late night crisis of confidence and keep riding. Matt says, “Part of it is built on desire. Part is practice. You build up to it in palatable chunks, basically four hour units. You can ride for four hours, and then stop and assess what to do next. On the way to Crater Lake we were super-tired, but we were never not having fun.”

He laughs when he says, “All great art requires suffering. Seriously though, there are peaks and valleys both mental and physical, but if you didn’t fall asleep on a picnic table in a park at 2AM because you were so tired, they wouldn’t be worth doing. What keeps me going is that you see so much cool stuff over the miles. Nature changes so much from place to place, from urban to boreal forest to farm land to rushing rivers.”

If the Pacific Northwest provided Roy’s high point, the Green Mountain Double Century served as counter point. He was riding the GMDC with the aim of setting a new solo rider course record. He was, he says, “racing to prove something to myself,” and after 13 hours of hard work he was on track for a 15-16 hour finish. In spite of the rainy morning, the roads were fast and dry.

And that’s when it happened.

“I had just gone up Tate Hill Road,” he says, his tone foreshadowing the crash to come, “basically a wall of a road, so steep, and I was thinking ahead to the next flat section, the next 30 miles, bombing down Chunks Brook Road, and I just hit something. My right hand came off the bar, and I swerved into the sand at the edge of the road, and the front wheel went out and I flew. I ripped both levers off the handlebar. I laid there. I was sure I had broken something. My elbow was wrecked.”

At this point, Mo says, “I went into paramedic mode. I saw his elbow and knew it needed a dozen stitches. We cleaned him up, put him in the car, but the thing about GMDC is that it gets into all these remote corners of the state. Phones don’t work a lot. Eventually we found our way to the hospital in Bennington. It took them an hour to clean out his elbow, and he ended up with 16 stitches, four of them internal.”

The crash left him with severe whiplash. Some weeks later he saw a chiropractor who performed a “life-changing adjustment.” His elbow had hit the ground so hard in Vermont that 1000km into his west coast ride, a small abscess formed and later gave up a further small handful of rocks and soil. Can you imagine it? And he was “never not having fun.”

The crash cancelled a lot of Matt’s plans, but if anything, that seems to have made him more intent on finding a different way to ride.

He says, “I have this amazing bike (Seven Evergreen PRO), and I want to sort of throw as many stupid ideas at it, as I can. I rode the length of the aqueducts between Waltham and Wachusett. I want to do more adventurous, absurd riding, rather than structured events. I’m finding those unique adventures far more attractive now. I want to make some wrong turns, plan less. Mo and I have both said, ‘Let’s make more mistakes.'”

We should all fail so beautifully.

GMDC photos by Dave Chiu.

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