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Bobby & Jens: Bikepacking legend James Hayden tells his wildest tales

James Hayden, a two-time Transcontinental Race winner, shares his love for the pure pain and pleasure of ultra-endurance riding.

James Hayden’s earliest cycling memory includes a mouthful of gravel after an endo on his training wheels. Call it foreshadowing, because the years since that inglorious childhood crash have gotten even rougher, with myriad crashes, whisper-thin escapes, and crushingly hard days.

In this week’s lively conversation with Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt, you’ll hear what it’s like to train for races that cover thousands of unsupported kilometers over multiple days of nonstop riding, often on gnarly terrain, and how the Brit prepares for sleep deprivation, weather fluctuations, and other challenges. He also takes Bobby and Jens deep into understanding the mental and physical toll that riding solo for dozens of hours at speeds that most of us can barely maintain for an afternoon.

Case in point, Hayden’s story of his first Transcontinental Race in 2015. A teaser: A self-described “young and borderline overconfident” newbie, he recalls racing the first 950 kilometers “flat out” to reach the climb of Mt. Ventoux at 2 p.m. on day two. Whereupon, Hayden “just completely broke” from the sun, heat, and accumulated fatigue, which started a tailspin that continued over the next four days until he was literally unable to hold his head up as he traversed the 500 kilometers of the route across Croatia.

Other highlights include getting chased by a pair of inebriated Kyrgyzstani thieves on horseback while riding along at midnight in the middle of the Silk Road Mountain Race (he accelerated into a downhill and outpaced the horses) and explaining how he survives weeklong races on two hours of sleep a night. What does he eat to ride for 13 hours straight? How does he make lucid decisions when he finds himself a “dark, dark hole of suffering”? Find out by tuning in!

The episode also features an analysis of a busy week of racing across Europe, plus the winner of this week’s “Shut Up, Legs!” winner (and your chance to vote on next week’s contenders).

“Bobby & Jens” is a weekly podcast from VeloNews starring former pros Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt, and featuring conversations with top athletes, coaches, emerging stars, and other newsmakers from the wide world of cycling. A new episode drops every Friday. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.

Send your questions and “Shut Up, Legs!” votes to BobbyandJens@VeloNews.com or @bobbyandjens.