Conor Collins had never participated in competitive cycling before August 2012. Now the 16-year-old Rogers High School student is one of the premier cyclists in the Pacific Northwest.
Collins competed in the Everest Challenge on Aug. 25 in Bishop, Calif., where he placed eighth — the best of anyone younger than 18.
Collins said he biked 88 miles on the first day, when he finished in six hours, 15 minutes. His 71-mile second day was an hour faster.
“Just finishing the race is an accomplishment,” Collins said. “ I was the fastest junior, so I was happy about that, but I wanted do better.”
Collins wanted to find a better way to get around Puyallup two summers ago, so he visited Tacoma Bike and purchased a bicycle.
“I was just looking for a bike to ride around town and ride on the streets,” he said. “I really didn’t expect much out of it. I wasn’t looking to do it competitively. Once I got the bike and started riding it, I just kind of fell in love with it. I just started riding more and more and more.”
Collins began to ride with his grandfather on the Orting trail and eventually tackled Camp 1 road in Kapowsin.
“It was a really nice climb, and I wanted to see what I could do,” he said. “I got the bike out of my truck and decided to do it.
“Before I went on the ride, I plugged in my Strava device. It is a social-media tool and GPS for cyclists and shows how your times and statistics match up with other people across the country. I plugged it in, and after my ride, I found out that I did pretty good.”
Just two weeks after he bought his bike, Collins contacted the Puyallup Cyclopaths, a group dedicated to biking. He began to train rigorously, and the rest is history.
A TRIP TO PARADISE
While most of his Rogers High classmates were on spring break, Collins decided to see just how good he could be after he trained with the Cyclopaths for six months. He flew to Hawaii in March, and he rode on Maui’s Mt. Haleakala and Hilo’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
“I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to try the Everest Challenge in California,” Collins said. “I knew if I could do these rides in Hawaii that I could do the Everest Challenge, too.
“It was for training, not only physically but mentally,” he said. “I knew it would give me the confidence I needed.”
Collins said the climbs in Hawaii were excruciatingly difficult.
“The Haleakala climbed 10,000 feet in 35 miles,” he said. “The second one I did two days later at Mauna Loa is considered the world’s longest hill climb at 45 miles with a 4.5 percent grade that climbs up to 11,100 feet.”
Mauna Kea had a steep grade, too.
“The last seven miles were a 7 to 8 percent grade, and the last mile had a 13 percent grade,” Collins said.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Collins doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. While cycling isn’t the only sport in which he competes — he also swims for Rogers High — he’s dedicated to see how good he can become.
“I have gone from a Category 5 cyclist when I first started to a Category 3 cyclist,” he said. “I want to continue to train hard and get to the highest category I can. I’m hoping to get on a really good developmental team in the future.”