Sydney Palmer-Leger makes her way through a winding downhill course. Photo courtesy of Lisa Palmer-Leger
Sydney Palmer-Leger makes her way through a winding downhill course. Photo courtesy of Lisa Palmer-Leger

Racing up one age group wasn't enough of a challenge for Sydney Palmer-Leger.

The 12-year-old mountain biker from Park City has spent this season competing in the Cat 1 15-16 age group, earning some great results in the process.

"It's been going pretty well," the young rider said. "I've been getting third or fourth."

"Or second," her mother, Lisa Palmer-Leger added.

After racing in the 13-14 age group, Sydney Palmer-Leger was still winning races by a large margin, so she decided to make yet another jump, where the racers pose more of a challenge.

"They're more mature, so they can go faster," she said. "I've been winning my age group and I just wanted a challenge - someone who's faster so that I can get faster because they're faster. My cousin [Sienna Leger Redel] and some of my teammates race Cat 1 and so I like racing with them."

Palmer-Leger turned in a second-place finish while racing in Missoula, Montana, with the Summit Bike Club a couple of weeks ago, crossing the finish line in 1 hour, five minutes and 47 seconds, just ahead of Leger Redel (1:08:57).

She said the newfound competition is definitely helping her improve, but she still has work left to do.

"Probably corners," she said when asked what the weakest part of her riding skill set was. "You have to work a lot at how to corner the bike and there are like all these technical drops."

Palmer-Leger, who also races up a couple age groups during the winter when she cross-country skis for the Park City Nordic Ski Club, credits skiing with building her stamina for biking.

"You have to have a really strong core and that helps with riding, too," she said. "And you have to be strong with your legs when you ski and bike."

She credits one of her coaches, Emma Garrard, with helping her cross-train to stay sharp for both sports.

"She's a triathlete, so she's helped me with mountain biking and skiing," she said.

Add in her Summit Bike Club coaches, including Ben Ollett and Bart Gillespie, and she's got a pretty strong support group.

Sydney Palmer-Leger gets a little bit of air during a race in Moab. Photo courtesy of Michael John Turner
Sydney Palmer-Leger gets a little bit of air during a race in Moab. Photo courtesy of Michael John Turner

"The team has top-notch coaches, and that really helps," Lisa Palmer-Leger said.

But perhaps the best competition Sydney faces is what comes from her brother, Drew.

"They ride a fair amount together," Lisa said. "They're on the same team. It's such a great group of kids and they all push each other.

"I think that's why she has gotten so fast - she's always chasing him."

"Riding with the boys," Sydney chimed in.

"I think that keeps her motivated."

Sydney and Drew will travel to Wisconsin this week for the WORS Cup in Portage. Immediately afterward, the family will travel to Bear Creek Resort in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for the USA Cycling Cross Country Mountain Bike National Championships.

In the championships, Sydney will have to drop back down to her actual age group to race, but that's OK with her.

"It's just a fun event," Lisa said.

Long-term, Sydney has some lofty goals, including berths in both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

"I hope to go to Worlds or Europe and do the really big races that Keegan Swenson, one of the pros from around here, does," she said. "I want to do cross-country skiing and biking in the Olympics."