Hayden Miller only vaguely remembers his first bike ride. There may have been training wheels involved. It was likely similar to the typical child’s first time atop a bicycle, he says.
Today, the North Raleigh Christian Academy junior is doing extraordinary things in the biking world, competing in national races in cross country mountain biking and cyclo-cross.
He placed fifth at the USA Cycling Cross-Country MTB Nationals last year, and will move up to Category 1 competition, the highest level before professional, this season.
“When I was a little kid I did neighborhood rides and stuff,” Miller said. “The roads were so busy that we wanted to find places to go ride, so we found trails, and it just took off from there. It’s pretty awesome to be able to ride your bike and be competitive.”
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Miller, 17, has been riding competitively for about two years, but his progression has been steep, said Todd Hunter, Miller’s Cary-based coach from Wenzel Coaching.
“Cycling is an endurance sport, and it takes years to build up that endurance. He’s still doing that, but he has progressed very quickly. I knew he would as soon as I met him,” said Hunter, who coaches 22 athletes around the world. “He can be really good. I don’t think he or his parents understand how good he is, but I see it.”
Miller competes in three events: cross-country; Super D, a downhill cross-country race; and cyclo-cross, a combination of road cycling, mountain biking and steeplechase.
While in season, Miller said he will ride five to seven times a week, with workouts between seven and 20 miles. Some of his favorite local routes are Umstead State Park, Wake Crabtree County Park and Neuse River Trail.
“Cycling is different from most traditional sports, not just because its not a team sport, but because of the bond you build with others in sport,” Miller said. “When you’re at a high school football game you don’t like the other team because they’re your competitors, but in cycling you’re friends with everyone you race, you see them every weekend,” he said
In November, Miller won the N.C. cyclo-cross junior state championship and placed second in the men’s Category 3 division on the same day. Last month, he had a weekend of first and second place finishes at the North Carolina Cyclo-Cross finals in Asheville.
While Miller is considering a professional career in cycling, he said he also enjoys riding with his family, pointing out that his father also competes in the sport.
Hunter says once Miller has more time to ride and train as a collegiate cycler, he will show his true potential in the sport, but for now the teen’s focus is maintaining good grades.
“Who knows what he can do? For him to do really good in school and do really good on the bike is saying something,” Hunter said. “There are kids who spend more time on the bike than he does, so for the amount of time he spends on the bike, it’s remarkable. It’s really important how he focuses on school. That’s really unique about him, and it’s not easy, but it’s doable.”