Originally Published: March 6, 2015 6:02 a.m.
PRESCOTT, Arizona - Living high up in the Ponderosa pine-covered hills west of White Spar Road, brothers Connor and Hayden Rosborough, two standout cyclists in the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA), couldn't have asked for a better place to train.
The house that the boys' parents, Herb and Anita Rosborough, recently inhabit is perched atop one of those hills south of downtown at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet. Step outside the door and you're no more than a couple miles from some of the best mountain biking trails in northern Arizona.
"It's been great here because there's so much elevation climb that you get to train on," said Hayden, a seventh grader at Prescott Mile High Middle School, from the family's home Wednesday night, March 4. "It's really fun."
It also doesn't hurt that Herb, a cyclist in his own right, encouraged Connor, 15, and Hayden, who just turned 13 on Thursday, to begin riding at a young age.
Hayden said he started riding bikes at 6 or 7 because he noticed how much his dad and Connor, now a freshman at Prescott High, were enjoying themselves on training rides.
Hayden and Connor are friendly boys who love the sport - and their affinity for it is already paying dividends.
At the MBAA's Havasu Havoc race Feb. 21 in Lake Havasu, Connor won the Intermediate Men 15-18 age division's race in 1 hour and 30 minutes, about two minutes ahead of the runner-up.
Meanwhile, Hayden won the Junior Boys' 12-14 age division in 50 minutes and 49 seconds, more than 2 minutes faster than the second-place finisher. The brothers insist that their training rides are critical to their success.
"My brother's helped me a lot in training and racing," Hayden said. "Connor's actually inspired me to train harder and stuff. I'm sure I probably have a little bit of a gift, but training's a huge part of this."
Specifically, competitive mountain bikers must constantly work on building their endurance on steep climbs all while dealing with the pain and obstacles that come with it.
When bikers back off on their training, it takes a physical toll on them on race days. Hayden tries to complete a training ride every day, although he usually takes at least one break during the week.
Herb said the boys' training rides are 10-12 miles at a minimum and upwards of 30-34 miles maximum. On Wednesday, March 4, though, Connor rode 47 miles with local pro T.J. Woodruff. (Woodruff coaches Connor since he's part of the prestigious nine-member AZ Devo team, which develops amateurs into pros.)
It took Connor nearly 3-1/2 hours to complete the ride, which had a spectacular climb of 4,524 feet. Connor says he burned 2,800 calories.
If Hayden doesn't get in a ride, he'll run. Despite Connor's recent accomplishments, Hayden's actually further along in his progression as a biker than Connor was at his age. Hayden's beating 14-year-olds at races without much problem, Herb said.
Connor and Hayden have rapidly ascended as top-notch youth riders in the MBAA, which sponsors races in the winter and spring months during the off-season of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA; Connor races in the fall with the Prescott High team).
MBAA includes all age groups, from boys to men as well as girls and women, whereas NICA is solely for high schoolers.
Connor and Hayden opened the MBAA's 2015 season Jan. 17 at the McDowell Meltdown race in Fountain Hills, where Hayden won the Junior Boys' 12-14 age division in 41 minutes and 42 seconds as a member of the Thin Air Racing team. Connor placed second in the Intermediate Men 15-18 age division in 1 hour and 26 minutes.
Two weeks later, at the Estrella Hedgehog Hustle Jan. 31 in Goodyear, Connor snared fourth in Intermediate Men 15-18 in 1 hour and 39 minutes, about five minutes off the winning pace.
On Saturday, March 7, Connor and Hayden will ride in the MBAA's White Tanks race. Thin Air Racing will be trying to keep its foothold on first place in the MBAA's "Big Ring" bigger-team standings, while AZ Devo's trying to do the same in the "Little Ring" smaller-team standings. Although a few more races remain in the season, the MBAA's state championship is scheduled for May 16 in Flagstaff.
Anita said Hayden's gotten much faster on his bike simply by training with Connor, who'll be attending a pro cross-country race March 20-22 in California.
"I ride with him and I give him advice," Connor said. "We were both kind of even for a while, and then he kind of stopped. And then high school season came around and then I got pretty fast."
Recently Hayden took a three-month break from riding to overcome a bout with scoliosis, which was giving him severe back pain on rides.
"But he got back quickly after that," Herb said.
Herb and Anita recently moved from South Beloit, Illinois, to Arizona with their three sons. Back in Illinois, Herb recalls out-riding Connor and Hayden - but not any more.
"Both these guys can ride circles around me now," Herb added. "Now it's a pain for them to bring dad along."
Initially, Herb took a job here at Camp Pinerock, sandwiched in between Copper Basin Road and Clubhouse Drive, where the boys rode.
The family resided on Rosser Street by North Highway 89 for six months in a rental before relocating to their current residence, where Herb, who works as a contractor, was hired to work on the home.
In the coming year, Herb said he wants to buy a house somewhere in south Prescott where his boys can continue riding in the nearby hills and mountains on the Prescott National Forest.
"Our goal is to stay in this area because of the trail system around here, because it's perfect for training," said Herb, who competes in MBAA races for fun.
Connor and Hayden, who are sponsored by High Gear Bike Shop, said they eventually want to become pro mountain bikers. In the 2014 Whiskey Off-Road endurance mountain bike event last April in Prescott, Connor placed fourth and Hayden eighth overall in the 20-mile, or "15 Proof," amateur ride.
Herb said he doesn't know if any 12-year-old, which Hayden was at the time, has finished eighth overall in the Whiskey's 15 Proof ride.
Next month, Connor will race in the 25 Proof (30-mile) amateur ride. Hayden will stick with the 15.
No matter what their finishes are in those races, keep an eye on these boys. You just might find them winning the Whiskey's 50-mile pro race someday.
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc