There will be no Mountain Bike Association of Arizona state champion from Payson this season.
Wayne Gorry and Ken Shepherd, two local cyclists who had shots at earning the prestigious title, came up short in their gold medal bids May 21 near Flagstaff. Both Gorry and Shepherd finished second in the finals and were runners-up in the MBAA seven-race state series.
Following the Flagstaff clash, the two Payson riders refused to make excuses for their disappointing finishes, choosing to say they were outdueled by skilled, seasoned competitors.
Gorry was beaten by former national champion Steve Becker of Prescott for the MBAA Expert Men's 50-years-plus crown. Shepherd was beaten by Joe Lozon of Litchfield Park in the Sport Mens 45-49-years division.
"Both those winners were very deserving," Gorry said.
The Gorry vs. Becker and Shepherd vs. Lozon battles were continuing story lines since the seven-race season began on Jan. 7 at McDowell Mountain Park near Phoenix. After going head to head through six cycling events, the four entered the Flagstaff finals needing victories to capture the overall state championships.
"We came up short, but it was not upsetting," Shepherd said. "Actually, I'm kind of excited."
Prior to the running of the MBAA championships, Shepherd said, "I'm just going to go out there and do my best to see what happens."
He did, however, admit it would be a real feather in Payson's cycling helmet for the town to crown a pair of state champions.
"That would be great, wouldn't it," he said.
Gorry accurately predicted that the keys to winning in Flagstaff would be to avoid any accidents or mechanical failures.
"If either one of those things happens, we could be out," he said.
Little did he know when he offered that insight that it would be mechanical failures that would spell the demise of both Rim riders. Both suffered multiple flat tires racing on the sharp volcanic rocks of the Flagstaff Nordic Center track.
"I had two flat tires and probably had to stop six times for air," Gorry said.
Shepherd suffered the same fate and almost quit the race.
"About a mile from the finish I had to stop for air and just barely made it (to the finish line)," he said.
The Rim country garnered a third MBAA state runner-up when Julia Randall Elementary School fourth-grader Cypress Gorry, Wayne's son, pedaled his way to first place in Flagstaff in the 12-years-and-under boys division.
The gold medal showing propelled the youngster into second place overall in the final MBAA state standings.
"This was his first year racing and it was exciting to watch him improve," his father said.
Besides April 2 race on the outskirts of Payson, the MBAA state series included an April 23 competition near Prescott. At the Prescott event, Gorry and Shepherd peddled their way to first place finishes and set the stage for the dramatic championship showdown in Flagstaff.
Shepherd out dueled his nearest competitor by 36 seconds. The victory was his third consecutive in the MBAA series.
Gorry edged the second place finisher by five seconds.
Cypress Gorry finished third in his division, about five minutes behind the champion.
According to Wayne Gorry, the race course in Prescott consisted of three 7-mile laps with about a 100-foot climb on each lap.
"The surface was decomposed granite much like we have in Payson," he said. "I think we had kind of a home court advantage because we are used to riding on it."