Tim Henry, a.k.a. Slim, was a sprinting powerhouse in the pro peloton during the first decade and into the second of the current millennium. Slim, who is from Atlanta, was one of the “next generation” cycling dynamos who passed through the WBL during its Middle Period, winning the Alto World Cup in 2009 in dramatic fashion as well as taking out the Overall Title the same year. During his heyday, he used his deadly sprint to snatch a truckload of wins and podiums at the highest level, but he wasn’t a one-trick pony. Slim was also aggressive and once he learned to read a race and attack across to the right break, he took his game to the next level because he rarely lost a sprint from a small group. Slim rode and raced for Micah Rice’s Jittery Joes Professional Team during a couple of its formidable years and the powerful West Virginia Professional Team, as well as various amateur teams based in Atlanta during his ascent. Slim and his wife Julia and their two children now live in Franklin, Tennessee where they run a Primrose Preschool nearby in Spring Hill and we checked in with Slim recently to see how life is these days for the Henry clan in the Volunteer State.

Humble Chronicler: Slim, it is great to catch up with you. Tell everyone where you are living and what you and your wife are doing these days.

Slim: My wife, Julie, and I have 2 kids, Sophia (10) and Carson (7), and we moved to Franklin, Tennessee in 2013 and built a Primrose Preschool nearby in Spring Hill. I oversee 165 kids and it soon will be about 350! I never could have imagined in my youth I’d be in this kind of influential position, but Julie and I are proud of what we have built, and we have worked very hard to build a reputation as the best preschool in Spring Hill, and I believe we have succeeded. We are currently building a second Primrose Preschool in Murfreesboro so we must be either a little crazy or we love what we do. Maybe it’s a little of both!

H.C.: What were you doing before you opened Primrose?

Slim: After I stopped racing full time at the end of 2010 season, I initially worked with a wine distributor in Atlanta and after a period, I was offered a position with a different distributor and we moved to Tennessee. Julie and I opened our Primrose Preschool in late 2014 and it flourished, allowing me to step away from my distributor job and work full time at our school beginning in 2016. We struggled mightily for the first 2 years, but at this point, we have expanded and our Primrose is not only full, but our waitlist has expanded since the pandemic began.

H.C.: It sounds like your plate is full – are you able to ride?

Slim: No doubt my plate is overflowing between my own kids and the school, so in the last 5 years, I have taken up running, though riding a bike is still more enjoyable. I have competed in two half-marathons and was training for a third when Covid shut events down, so now I'm just running for fun and to keep fit. Thanks to years of cardio work on the bike, I can hold my own in a running race—I finished my second half marathon in 1:31:16 and was shooting for a 1:30 for my third, but I’ll shelve that goal for a few years because life will become even busier when we open our second Primrose. After years of structured training, it's nice to exercise for the pure enjoyment of it, but all former racers have to learn to cope with the feeling that you’ll lose fitness if you don’t get out and train. However, I couldn’t walk away completely—I still shave my legs.

H.C.: Tell me about your kids.

Slim: Sophia, age 10, was elected fourth grade Class President this year. She is highly creative, loves all types of art, and has started singing—she wants to be a famous singer one day and since we live in Music City, what better place to make that dream come true? Her mom and I are very proud of her. She is a gifted runner and a talented basketball player as well, with the same kind of tenaciousness, competitive drive, and laser focus that I had when I raced. Whatever she does, she does well. Carson, age 7, is a typical first grade boy, a little hard-headed at times, probably like his dad. He loves Legos and he loves to play the electric guitar, and he loves Minecraft so much we restrict his screen time. And thanks to his dad’s influence, he is a Star Wars’ fan and loves cars too. He is less interested in sports right now but is extremely analytical and can argue better than many adults, so I think he may be on track to be a lawyer, though hopefully he’ll become an engineer or something a little more respectable. Seriously though, one day he will do great things.

H.C.: You mentioned your son loves cars. Are you a car enthusiast?

Slim: Absolutely! My newest favorite hobby is taking my BMW to the racetrack and driving fast, and I’m talking go-to-jail kind of speeds, so the racetrack is the best and safest outlet for that. Driving at breakneck speeds on a racetrack is as intense and thrilling as racing in the Athens Twilight Criterium, but believe it or not, it’s less dangerous. But my days at the track gives me that adrenaline rush that I formerly experienced in cycling days during those times when I pushed the limits, whether it be cornering at high speed, bumping shoulders in a bunch sprint at 40 miles per hour, or descending in a line at 55. Track days are a surrogate for my race days.

H.C.: How were you first introduced to cycling?

Slim: I was introduced to cycling in 1997 at the age of 15. My friend, John Patterson, started riding a road bike and I wanted one also. John’s father, John Patterson, Sr. was a hard-working moto official who worked many bike races through the years in the southeast and was well-known in the peloton. My first bike was a steel Bianchi, a beast. There were not many Junior teams in the southeast back in the late 90's, so my dad and I created one that we named Velo Rockets (1998-2001). We screen-printed jerseys and recruited the best talent we could find, which was also the ONLY talent we could find, but we had a solid team that showed up to win every Junior race we entered. Looking back, our team had some future rock stars and pros including Phil Southerland, Travis Hagner, and Saul Raisin. In photographs from back then, I am a chubby Junior and I doubt anyone thought I would make it far. [Editor’s interlude: A person’s willpower is difficult to photograph.]

H.C.: Tell me about how you progressed and which teams you rode for as you rose into the senior ranks and ultimately into the pro peloton.

Slim: Eventually I trimmed up and developed a little racing savvy and was picked up by a hot new team named Homeland Communities in 2002. Homeland Communities had a strong group of young guys that raced well together, and many of those teammates and I became lifelong friends. That year I was 19 and really blossomed as a racer and I won the Georgia state Road Race and Crit, plus several other regional races, and I grabbed a few credit-worthy results at national level races. Those results helped me get my first pro contract at 20 years old with Team West Virginia in 2003, which was an eye-opening year for sure! After this I rode for A.G. Edwards (2004) and Deutsche Bank (2005) both strong teams that showed up to win. Eventually, through consistency and hard work, I was offered a full ride with Jittery Joe's for 2007 and rode with them for two years and we had some fantastic results. In 2009 I was developing the depth of speed and endurance to really shine and ride with DLP out of North Carolina and had solid results in some of the toughest races I have ever done. In 2010, I became the Team Type One Development Team Director and hopefully passed on some useful knowledge to some younger riders. In 2011, I joined Litespeed/BMW and raced with many of my close friends and we raced more of a regional schedule—my daughter Sophia was born by this time. And in 2017, I joined my friends Phil Southerland and Daniel Holt and raced for the Team Type One Foundation Masters Team. We went to Nationals and even did well. I raced one more training race and pulled the plug on what I consider a fun and successful career.

H.C.: You were known as someone with a strong sprint but who wasn't only a crit racer but also a savvy road racer—how did you use this skill to your advantage?

Slim: When I was young I had a powerful sprint which overcame my lack of tactical thinking—if I was in the right position in a group, I could typically win the sprint. But positioning, and the associated pushing and bumping to get in a prime spot, was not a strength I possessed, so I learned how to slip into the winning breakaway. I learned to watch and wait for the right combination to go up the road, and when I thought it was the right move and the gap looked like it was just about to become unbridgeable, I hit it as hard as I could and motored across. I became fairly shrewd at reading breaks and made this a signature move and it often worked—if I could just make it into the winning break I had the confidence that I could contest the finish in any race. As I aged and my max sprint power diminished, I had to adapt so I became adept at pushing a high pace in breakaways to burn off any pure sprinters. This style of racing was suited well for hard, technical crits, especially in the rain, because I could corner in the wet with finesse. In the 2010 Athens Twilight Criterium it poured and so many people crashed on those fast corners that I just ended up in the front at the finish by virtue of not crashing. Big Mountains were rarely my friend but I excelled at long, hilly road races which by natural selection eliminated most pure sprinters.

H.C.: When did you start riding the WBL and what do you remember about it?

Slim: My first WBL was in the early 2000's and I came at the urging of my good friend Phil Southerland, who was living in Athens at this point. I remember that each WBL ride, we rode through cities and towns I would never have seen otherwise. Alto and Toccoa stand out in my mind as the most epic of all, probably because they were hard, long days of struggle on the bike. I remember endless hills and Attack Zones where the intensity had me at my limits. In fact, many WBL's were tougher than races and made me hard as nails. I remember when I would travel to Athens and stay with Phil, I would be excited about having the pulp beat out of me the next day because I knew my friends would be there too! And there's no feeling like finishing a 120-mile slug-fest in the front group! I made many friends along the way in the WBL and I would not trade those experiences.

H.C.: You won both the WBL Overall and the Alto World Cup in 2009. Tell me a little about that year and describe how you won Alto?

Slim: I went into 2009 training harder than I ever had and I showed up to the WBL ready to rock. I managed to consistently score points throughout the WBL season and winning Alto in 2009 is my greatest WBL memory. It was a chilly but sunny day with strong winds, perfect WBL weather. I was nervous about the climb into Alto, the Triple Stair Step, but when I went clear in a 6-man group with Joey Rosskopf, who was turning the screws on the group, I knew I was on good form. The crosswinds that day were ripping and made drafting nearly negligible, so those of us having a good day put the whole group in the gutter when we could. Later, I won the climb up Crackback Hill and my confidence grew tenfold. I have not won many cycling events that ended on the top of a big hill, so Crackback Hill will forever be my favorite. After I won Crackback at Mile 70, I knew I had a shot to win Alto. When we hit the 9-mile Alto Final Attack Zone at the 100-mile point, about 5 hours into the ride, we’d already climbed about 7,000 feet. A group of 14 formed over Steep Dog Hill and I jumped away from this group with 7 miles to go and soloed for the win, though it felt like 100 miles. {Editor’s interlude: The chase group included such pros as Rosskopf, Nick Reistad, Matt Crane, Emile Abraham, Jon Atkins, Michael Stone, Travis Hagner and Don Gianinni. Yes, Slim was on a good day.] I also have not won many races solo, so it was an awesome feeling to take Alto in grand fashion like that and I’ll always remember it!

H.C.: Shifting lanes, who were some of your favorite teammates and why?

Slim: My favorite teammates could be split into two categories: (1) Riders I could race well with because we read each other so well, and (2) riders/mentors who taught me how to be a professional both on and off the bike. The teammates I raced well with were guys with the same aggressive style of racing as myself who could read races and cover moves, but who were willing to work for someone else when his opportunity arose. This list includes Phil Southerland, John Murphy, Brian Bibens, and Chris Brown. We rarely needed race plans because we knew instinctively what to do. Riders from the second group who taught me how to race like a professional on the bike and act like one off the bike are Scottie Weiss from West Virginia Pro Cycling, and Jeff Hopkins and Cody Stephenson from Jittery Joe's. Looking back, these guys showed incredible patience with me, and I try and use the lesson they taught me when dealing with my own students.

H.C.: Who do you admire?

Slim: The people I admire most are my father and my father-in-law. My dad made tons of time to support me in my pursuit of bike racing and he always had positive things to say about how I did in a race no matter how bad I really did. He had more patience than any other person I've ever met, and he carted me all around the country so I could compete in the sport I loved. He always loved sports and competition, and he embraced cycling, a sport he knew nothing about, simply because I had a passion for it. He could sit in a feed zone beside a rural corn field in the middle of a hot, sultry Georgia summer day and hand my teammates and me water bottles as we raced by once every hour, and by the end of the race he was friends with everyone in the feed zone. He was my biggest fan no matter how I finished. I admire my father-in-law for the love and selflessness he has exhibited throughout his life. He’s a genius at finance—able to run large numbers in his head—and that skill combined with his business acumen allowed him to retire at a relatively young age so he could pack his daughter's (now my wife's) lunch every day while she was in high school. He quit his corporate job to stay home and have quality time with his family. This is a goal of mine also and my wife and I are working extremely hard to get to that point.

H.C.: I know you well enough to tell you that you’ll get there! It has been great talking to you, Slim, and Happy New Year to you and your family. I am sure the winds will remain at your back!

Slim: Thanks, and Happy New Year to you and all the Zealots and friends in WBL World.

Humble Chronicler
(Lockdown January 2021)