Parkites soar in Sun Valley | ParkRecord.com

Parkites soar in Sun Valley

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

Standing near the finish line, Bill Riley stared into the tree line above and saw a flash.

It was his son, Daniel, a senior at Park City High School, wearing a white racing jersey.

"We saw Daniel blow past and no one else was around him," Bill Riley said. "Sure enough, a few minutes later he comes busting out of the trees and into the finish line and we all started dancing."

Daniel Riley started racing cross-country mountain bikes in the spring. A few months later, the 17-year-old became a national champion, winning the gold medal at the 2012 USA MTB Cross-Country Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho, over the weekend.

A longtime downhill and dirt-jump rider, Daniel Riley decided to try cross-country racing this spring because it was something new to do. He bought a cross-country mountain bike and started competing locally in races around Park City and Northern Utah.

Prior to his national debut, he had only four official cross-country races under his belt. To qualify for nationals, he wanted to participate in the Deer Valley Pedalfest race in June, but couldn’t due to an already-scheduled ACT test.

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He went to Idaho to qualify for nationals, where it wasn’t too hard considering he was the only competitor in his age and category.

But he had plenty of competition at nationals at Sun Valley.

In a field of 40 of the top category-3 racers ages 15-18, Riley sat comfortably in the pack and waited to make his move. During a grueling climb Riley made his move and never looked back.

"I couldn’t really see anybody behind me most of the time because I had a pretty solid lead for a couple of minutes, so I was just kind of going at my own pace and not really worrying about anyone else," he said. "I won by four minutes and that was definitely a surprise. I thought the other kids would catch up to me on the downhill. I’m definitely a stronger climber than on the descent.

"Once I realized how far ahead I was, that’s when I was surprised, and after that I just kind of finished the race and I was stoked."

The 19-mile single-track loop was less rocky than traditional mountain-bike trails surrounding Park City, Riley said.

"He’s excelled beyond our expectation," Bill Riley added. "It was surreal."

Riley wasn’t the only local star at the national event. As expected, Park City’s Keegan Swenson dominated the field, going 3-for-3, winning a gold medal in the cross-country, Super D and short-track events.

The Super D race is similar to a downhill race, Swenson explained, and lasts about 15 to 25 minutes. A short-track event is run on a smaller loop and traditionally runs for 20 minutes, covering two to three laps. Dominating the field in the Category 1, 17-18 age range, isn’t new to Swenson, but having a clean sweep was an impressive feat.

"They were all awesome to win," he said. "Cross-country was the most important because I really wanted to win, but wasn’t really expecting to. It was all good fun in a way. I’ve raced most all these guys all year long."

Next up for Swenson is the World Cup finale in France on July 28, which will serve as a precursor to the World Championships in Austria in September.

He said he was proud of Riley and other local racers who always seem to up the ante at the national races in Sun Valley.

"I would say it’s all the access of trails we have and how easy they are to ride," he said. "It’s fun to ride here and really get into it."

Park City’s Hailey Batten was also golden in Sun Valley, winning the women’s junior 13-14 age group, along with Katie Clouse, who won the women’s junior 11-12 age group and Sydney Palmer-Leger, who won the women’s junior 10-and-under age group.

For local results of the 2012 USA MTB Cross-Country Nationals, please see the scoreboard page on B-6.