Wayne Gorry has built a reputation as the Rim Country’s finest and most accomplished mountain biker.
It’s easy to understand his lofty status — the 54-year-old elementary school teacher has won several Mountain Bike Association of Arizona state championships, the U.S. Mountain Bike marathon title, the NOVA Nationals, Payson Mayor’s Cup and the New Amsterdam Cyclo-Cross series.
He’s also the Rim Country’s biking guru using his talents and knowledge to sell the sport to younger enthusiasts.
But as accomplished as Gorry is, the Payson Stampede six-hour solo event took a resounding toll on him.
“The race was the hardest I’ve ever done in terms of the conditions,” he said. “The climbing on the course is extremely steep and it is really hard to go at a measured pace necessary for long distance performance.”
The steamy weather also wore on Gorry.
“It was really hot for racing,” he said. “I was suffering from leg cramps for five of my seven laps, in spite of drinking plenty of water and taking supplemental electrolytes.”
Even for the most finely conditioned of cyclists, like Gorry, the conditions were exhausting.
“My body just couldn’t keep up with the demands on the inclines and the heat,” he said.
Although the veteran cyclist was competing in an obviously harsh setting, he still shined — winning his age group and the overall championship for completing the most laps of all those entered in the six-hour solo competition.
“After racing it (the Payson Stampede), I agree with the promoter’s claims that they have the toughest 24-hour race course on the planet,” he said. “And I only did it for six hours.”
The victory marked Gorry’s return to the race course after fracturing a hip March 29 in a crash incurred while practicing for the Nova Nationals.
At the time of the accident, he was leading in the state championship point series. “It was especially satisfying to come back and win my first race,” he said.
Also representing Payson in the Stampede was Payson High School sophomore Daniel Conley.
The time he spent training last summer at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado paid dividends when he rode his way to a first place age group finish.
The Stampede, which was sponsored by Tucson Racing and the Mazatzal Casino, was held Sept. 20 and 21 at the Payson Event Center and on a 15-mile loop trail in the Tonto National Forest.
In addition to the six-hour race Gorry and Conley entered, there were 12- and 24-hour races.
In 2009 and 2010 the Stampede will be the 24-hour Mountain Bike National Championships.