The Payson Posse took home the championship honors in the 2005 inaugural Payson Stampede 24 Hour Mountain Bike Challenge. The four Rim Country men on the team -- Wayne Gorry, Eric Kush, Nick Payne and Ken Shepherd -- will return to the 10-mile course to defend their title June 17 and 18.
Gorry is the veteran in the group.
"I guess I've been mountain biking since it started," he said. He crafted his first mountain bike out of an old Schwinn Beach Cruiser in 1980.
"I did my first (cycling) tour in 1979, on-road, and found myself wanting to go off down the dirt roads, but my bike was not built for that," Gorry said.
So, he made himself a mountain bike and started riding trails and traveling dirt roads.
Gorry -- with three state titles and two national titles -- didn't start racing until 1989.
"I was riding with Dan Basinski and he told me I should really start racing," Gorry said. His first competition was Payson's "If You Ain't Flyin', You Ain't Tryin'" race.
He was hooked.
"I like cycling in general," Gorry said. "It keeps me in shape. I have a family history of heart disease, so this helps me combat it. I like the speed, the excitement and the challenge of riding difficult terrain."
He incorporates cycling into every part of his life. He rides his bike to work as a teacher with the Payson Unified School District. He rides with his sons, Aspen and Cypress, and sometimes his wife, Gail. And their family vacations are centered around cycling.
Gorry encourages his students to cycle and even incorporates it into some of his lesson plans.
Gorry also keeps track of the miles he rides. In 2005, he clocked about 6,500 miles biking.
He prefers distance racing and his favorite place to ride is Colorado.
"They have trails in a lot of places," he said. "It is also one of the most challenging places to ride because of the elevation and climbing."
Gorry has seen a lot of the United States from two wheels. He has raced from Canada to New Mexico through the Rockies, traveled the West Coast, raced in Hawaii and ridden from Arizona to Montana.
He has not raced or toured in Europe yet, but he said that is probably in the near future. He said he would also like to ride in New Zealand.
As for the upcoming Payson Stampede, Gorry did his practice run on the course Tuesday morning.
"There's nothing easy about any of it," he said. "The contestants are going to be either climbing or going downhill over rocks, which is especially difficult at night.
"And if it stays as hot as it's been, the heat will add to the challenge. I rode it at 6:30 in the morning and it was already hot."
Improvements were made in April on the course's first downhill stretch in anticipation of the race and Gorry said it is vastly better.
"You can tell where there's been quad traffic on it. It will be more fun (this year). You can go down it faster."
For Gorry, the Payson Stampede is part of his training for the upcoming nationals, held in mid-July in Sonoma, Calif.
He won the national championship for marathon mountain biking in 2004 and 2005. The races were 67 miles, held at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
This year the national race will be longer, lasting six hours and more difficult for Gorry because of the lower elevation. The race venue had to be changed due to heavy snows this winter.
Before 2004, there wasn't a single championship race, but a series of races and no marathons, he said.
Advice for beginners
As a longtime mountain biker, Gorry's advice for beginners is common sense.
First, go to a bike shop and get a good bike.
"If you don't have a good bike, you won't have a good experience," he said.
And get a helmet.
"You shouldn't ride anywhere without a helmet, but most definitely don't mountain bike without one," he said.
Once you have the bike and helmet, find a dirt road and try it out. There are lots of them in the area.
"Get comfortable with your bike and how it handles, then try a trail," he said. "Don't get discouraged. Pedaling uphill hurts, but with practice it will come."