The name Ryan Flinn belongs to a pair of athletes — one a professional hockey player, the other who participates in a sport featuring more solitude. The latter stopped in Newton Thursday, the unofficial halfway point of the TransAm Bike Race.
Ryan Flinn the cyclist hails from Australia, where he has a corporate sponsor and is known for grueling bike rides. In March he pedaled 5,500 kilometers (about 3,700 miles) across Austrailia – the second time in as many years he has done so.
This week he is pedaling across the United States.
“I have never been to the U.S.,” Flinn said. “... Even though the U.S. is pretty much the same width, the population of Austrailia is about the same as greater Los Angeles. That means there are great tracts of land where there is nothing.”
According to his Strava profile, a workout app, he has spent more than 650 hours on a bike this year, pedaling more than 9,000 miles.
“What ultra distance racing is all about is managing all these small issues to prevent the big one rearing its head and putting you out of the race,” Flinn said.
He has found popularity on the seat of his bike, with an instagram account boasting 14,300 followers under his nickname of Rhino.
Flinn works for a company called Curve, which constructed the bicycle he is crossing the country on. His business parter at Curve won the TransAm two years ago.
The TransAm Bike Race is a 4,300 mile race from Oregon to Virginia. Newton is about halfway, and a stopping point.
“The biggest challenge is just getting to the finish line each day,” Flinn said. “... You start with all that climbing right off the bat. It really shows your weaknesses pretty early on. … For me the most challenging part was the hills and the altitude.”
According to the live tracking at transambikerace.com, there are 108 men and six women on the route. Flinn is in ninth place overall. His target finish is within 18 days. The race started June 2.
“This is instant money with no carbon footprint for Newton,” said James Barringer, co-owner of Newton Bike Shop. The shop is a stopping point for racers to service their bikes and refuel their bodies in the 100 block of East Sixth.
June 13 owners were talking schedules — they had cyclists staying the night with several scheduled to come in throughout the day. It served as kind of an exclamation point for the summer.
This is the season for cyclist to cross the country on the 43-year-old TransAmerica Trail. Not all of the cyclists making the trip during the summer are part of the TransAm race.
“We will see a very short segment, about three weeks of the summer,” Barringer said. “They are getting ready to come. The college kids are coming. They are still money for the community. They buy college kid stuff. … Grocery stores, restaurants, they all benefit from it.”