Local ultra cyclist Andy Christensen will begin the biggest journey of his life starting June 12 as he travels 3,000 miles across the United States on a bicycle in Race Across America.
Christensen will brave the desert, plains and mountains with a crew of seven people supporting him. Fewer than 400 solo cyclists have finished the race over the last 36 years. Most complete the race — which starts Oceanside California and ends in Annapolis Maryland — between 10 1/2 and 12 days.
Considered the toughest endurance event in the world, of the 33 people that start the race, only half are expected to finish. The length of the course is 40 percent longer than the Tour de France.
So, why does Christensen want to do it? The short answer: Because it’s there.
“When I finished second in the men’s division in the Race Across the West in 2016, I realized I had the potential,” Christensen said. “After that, I started thinking about how I would do it. So why not do it?”
“I strongly believe you only live once and when I get to be 80 years old, I don’t want to wonder if I could have finished a race like Race Across America. Now I’ll find out.”
From unhealthy to elite athlete
Born in Denmark, Christensen, 45, lives in the Town of Raymond with his wife and crew chief, Birgitte Christensen.
Andy’s commitment to becoming a better athlete started 10 years ago when he realized he was living an unhealthy lifestyle. He started bicycling his way to better health, eating better and quit smoking. But ultra cycling changed his mental outlook. And he realized just how much support he needs on this journey.
And when he rides up to the starting line, Andy says he will be calm knowing he’s done the work he has needed to do to prepare for the race. But there’s also an unknown component: He has never raced 3,000 miles before. But over the past two years, he has logged over 30,000 miles.
He also knows that he won’t be doing this alone.
“I have followed my coach’s program. I have seven amazing people on my crew to support me during the race and I am 100 percent dedicated to this,” Andy said. “I am willing to go as long and as far as it takes to make this happen.”
The crew and how they support Andy
While ultra cycling is largely considered a selfish sport, Christensen knows he couldn’t endure the journey he’s about to do without his wife and his crew.
Birgitte’s background as a holistic health practitioner means she knows how to support Andy’s overall health and wellness. She knows what questions to ask, how to support him mentally, and what nutrition he needs to be successful. She also knows his heart.
But the other crew members — which includes Andy’s sister Berit and their brother-in-law Joergen Kjaer — also support the race through navigation, keeping the bicycle in working order, and monitoring Andy’s health and well being.
“Andy is extremely competitive, but he’s racing against himself and I am here to support that,” she said.
And when Andy faces “his demons” — the fatigue, the heat, and mental drain — Birgitte reaches out to friends and family for even more support. His helmet is wired with a Bluetooth mobile device.
“He loves it when people call him,” Birgitte said. “It kills time that way. Plus, the seven people in our crew can only support and motivate him so much because we say same things. So in 10 plus day race, we’ve got a call list. Plus if he’s tired at night, Birgitte has a brother in Sweden family that can call him.”
Birgitte also does a lot to help prepare for the race. But Andy, Birgitte and the crew have been through this before as they have logged 8,500 race miles together. But in Andy’s mind, he’s not really racing against the other bicyclists, he’s racing against himself — his mind, his body, and spirit.
“If I can inspire one person towards a healthier future, I have succeeded,” he said.
If you want to follow Andy’s progress during the race, check out his Facebook page at Andy Christensen Racing.
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Also, if you are looking for summer fun, check out Kraut Music Fest, which is set for June 8, 9, and 10.