The first thing that many notice about American Cypress Gorry (Whole Athlete/Specialized) are the dreads but there’s a lot more to the 18-year old from Arizona who will be representing the USA at the World Cyclocross Championships next weekend in Koksijde, Belgium.
One could say that it was pre-destined that he would become a bike racer.
“The first day I was on a bike I was three days old. My dad took me to work on his bike, in a front pack. I’ve been around bikes my whole life and riding since I’ve been pretty young.” Gorry told podiuminsight.
He then started racing mountain bikes at the age of ten. “It was always something I enjoyed doing and then a couple of years ago, I got more dedicated to training for it.”
That dedication is paying off.
The cross adventure started four years ago. “I went out to visit my brother who was living in Chicago at the time, he borrowed a bike for me, it was like a 50-pound old mountain bike and I was probably 60 or 70 pounds at the time. He brought me to this cross race in Wisconsin and we were hooked. It worked out, we came back home to Arizona and there was a series just starting up, we raced that for the season and have been to Nationals every year since then.”
“That was the hard part, getting it over the barriers.” laughed Gorry who loved the experience. “Other than that, it was a lot of fun.”
Since then Gorry has been racing both mountain bike and cross and finds it difficult to choose one discipline over the other.
“These past couple of years I’ve fluctuated in between what I like more, what I think I’m better at.” he said. “I went to Eurocrosscamp last year and was pretty burnt out from it and didn’t want to go to Cross Worlds, I was like I’ll do this mountain bike season but stop after Nationals and focus on cross. After going to Germany during mountain bike season, I got an invite to go to the North American World Cup and ended up deciding ‘well I can’t really turn that down, ended up to going on race Worlds for mountain so then I was really into mountain again so it’s hard. I can’t really decide if I want to focus on one more than the other.”
He does think that eventually he’ll have to decide which one to put the primary focus on but for now, he wants to do both. “Maybe I won’t be as good as I possibly can at one or the other, but I don’t think I can make a choice as to which one I’m better at right now, just leave as many options open at the moment.”
The combination makes him prefer technical courses. “Climbing on a mountain bike that’s not so much of a factor in cross I guess.” he mused about his strengths as a racer. “Maybe if it’s muddy or something, like slick, not hogging you down because I don’t have huge amounts of power like other people do.” Gorry added with a laugh. “I guess being a smaller guy, racing a mountain bike, I have better handling than some.”
The proudest moment during his eight years of racing came at the USA Cyclocross National Championships in 2010 in Bend, where he finished fourth. “That season was the first time I started taking it more seriously and dedicated training through the whole season so it was a good accomplishment to have after my first year taking it more seriously. And then from there full mountain bike and cross seasons back to back, it’s all together.”
The cross scene in Arizona is still developing so the high-school senior has to not only juggle racing, training and school but also the traveling needed to be able to race against the top juniors.
“I think I did three races this year, the series I think has seven races in it but they’re all, the most people they’ll get is like 60 for a day, there’ll be 10 or so in the men’s open class.” Gorry said about the cross scene in Arizona. He traveled to three of the USGPs, Cincinaati3 Cyclocross Festival, Granogue Cross and Nationals in Madison this season.
Support from school was also part of the equation. “I have a little bit easier of a schedule this year because I’m a senior. A half-day at school which is good for training, and then not quite as much to make up when I’m gone. And also, teachers support what I’m doing so that helps as well.”
The season. Overall, Gorry is pretty satisfied with his 2011/12 cross season. “I felt that after last year I could come into the season really well but the junior class has gotten so much stronger this year, I’m happy with my results. Nationals was as good as I’ve done all season in any race, hopefully coming into form for the end of the season, and do well at Wolds.”
He counts Nationals as one of the highlights of his season. After a slow start and wrong tire pressure, Gorry chased back from about 20th to finish third in a two-man sprint with silver medalist Tobin Ortenblad (CalGiant). Another highlight was his third place finish at Harbin Park, where he once again chased back to the podium after a crash on the first lap.
The USGP Derby City Cup weekend in Louisville was a low-point of the season. He finished ninth on the first day after his crank broke loose on the first lap.
“The second day I crashed jumping the barriers, I cracked my helmet the whole way through, ran to the pit there, you saw me running then, one of my hoods had been knocked down a couple of inches, pulled the cable, my wheel was just locked and other things. That ruined my race.” said Gorry who finished 19th that Sunday.
He admits to being disappointed with his results that weekend. “I came into it feeling like I was going to do really well so it was pretty disappointing afterwards. I was a little bummed about it for awhile and then realized hey it’s just one weekend, the next weekend you can do better. I can kind of forget about it and move on for the rest of the season where I’m going to do better than that.”
Then, he made the trip to Belgium for the second year in a row to attend EuroCrossCamp during the holiday season.
“It went better this year. I was one of the guys who got sick (last year) and I ended up getting sick again the night of Zolder so that didn’t help either,” he laughed, “but it was still a good learning experience. I think it’s good when you have a race or two where you feel good, I didn’t really end up having that like I thought I would. A bit of a bummer but I came back and did well at Nationals so that was nice.”
He can’t pin-point exactly what he learned from the experience. “Just the racing is so much different over there. I feel that every time you race you learn something new even if you’re not picking up on it right away, maybe it’s something that you look back on and realize oh this is something I can do better and build on that later.”
Worlds. Though it will be the first time that he will be at Cross Worlds, he does have experience at World Championships. Gorry finished 59th at the Mountain Bike World Championships in September 2011.
But first, he will line-up with all the other American juniors at the Hoogerheide World Cup this Sunday. He says that he hasn’t through much about his goals for the races so far, both on courses he has not seen yet.
“It’s hard to judge how well I can do. I guess I’d like top 30 or so would be good, it’s hard to tell. In Eurocrosscamps, the races weren’t World Cups for juniors so the field wasn’t as good as they will be for Hoogerheide and obviously Worlds, there’s not going to be any better than that.”
As for the future, Gorry wants to take cycling as far as it will go. “Hopefully it will turn into a career, I’ll see how that will work out.”
Of course, the conversation with Gorry had to include the dreads. “There’s not too much of a story behind them.” he laughed. “It was just something I decided to do last Easter weekend, I asked my mom if she’d help me, I didn’t actually have a reason to do it for the most part, hey why not?”
You can follow Gorry on twitter, his handle is @crossdreads