Richard Carter, For the Times Record News Published 7:54 a.m. CT Aug. 23, 2019
A little less than three and a half months ago, area mountain biker Aaron McDaniel won the prestigious National Championship in the 2019 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Marathon Singlespeed Men’s event in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas.
Today, beginning at 10 a.m. on the first day of cycling over Hotter’N Hell weekend, McDaniel will race three laps on the 11.2 mile Wee-Chi-Tah Trail in his fifth attempt to win the Category 1 Mountain Bike race. Later today, at 5:30 p.m. he will lead out the Rugrats mountain bike race for cyclists 12-years-old and under.
The Friday Mountain Bike race will feature Cat 1, Cat 2, Cat 3, Cat 3 Hopefuls, and Junior Mountain Bike racing from 8 a.m. until noon. The Endurance road ride begins at 7:05 a.m. Saturday as do the USA Cycling Road Races. Sunday features Wee-Chi-Tah Trail runs and USA Cycling Criteriums in front of MPEC starting at 7 a.m.
McDaniel’s winning of a National Championship is a major accomplishment for any cyclist, most of whom have been training for many years and are considered at the very height of their particular field.
McDaniel grew up in Iowa Park, racing motocross from the age of 3 or 4 until he was 21 when he left Motocross because of injuries. “In 2014, I found a cheap mountain bike on Craigslist,” he said, “bought it and started riding our Wee-Chi-Tah Trail.”
Until then, he had ridden bikes as a kid like most kids do cruising around their neighborhoods. “I think I missed the dirt from the Motocross,” he said, “and bicycling was the next safe step. I think that’s why I get hooked on mountain biking.”
Hooked may be a little of an understatement, as the Cat 1 mountain biker rides at least 5 days each week. “During the week, because of my day job, my rides are limited to a couple of hours a day, if I’m lucky. On the weekends, it’s a different story. I try to ride a minimum of three upwards of 5 hours.”
His two normal days of “rest” each week include either being off the bike, or riding at a relaxed recovery pace. “If I don’t get to ride my bike every single day, I don’t feel right,” he said. And that includes travelling to race two to three times a month in regional mountain bike races.
Of his recent National Championship on May 11, he said, “I’ve been competing in the Marathon Nationals for the past 3 years. I was in contention in 2018 and flatted multiple times, but I chased back to finish 8th of 23. I was happy.”
That said, “The next day I started training as hard as I could for this year’s event. The marathon singlespeed race is a set distance, 45.4 miles, and normally takes about 4 hours to finish.
“The race was two laps, and the first was relatively flat, not a lot of hill climbs,” McDaniel said. “The second lap, they threw in the biggest hill climb in Palo Duro right at the beginning of the lap. I had a plan in my mind, multiple days in advance, if there was a race happening come the second lap, I was going to go as hard as I could going up that hill and try to sperate myself from the competition.”
At the end of his first lap, McDaniel was racing with two other cyclists and he then executed exactly what he wanted to do up the hill. “By the end of the race, I won the hill climb and was very happy. I raced the race I wanted to race.”
McDaniel is looking forward to his fifth Streams and Valleys Mountain Bike race. “I have never won it. Once, because I was outright beat in a sprint at the end, and the other times were mechanical problems.”
He is also honored to have been asked to lead out the 12 year and under Rugrats Race. The race is free, on the Wee-Chi-Tah Trail and starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday. “It’s so much fun to watch those kids and the joy they get out of racing their bikes. Kids are the most important thing,” he said. “They are the future.”
McDaniel is also a skilled road and criterium racer (Cat 3 in each) and may race the road on Saturday or the criterium on Sunday “There is a chance I will race.”
He said that none of his success would be possible without his wife Tatum. “She keeps my nutrition on-spot and that’s huge in this sport. She enjoys bicycling, but not as much as I do. I think she enjoys helping me and I am very fortunate for that.”
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