Cameron Chambers has climbed the highest peak of 24-hour mountain bike racing, and he has remained there for nearly a decade.
The 31-year-old is a world champion and a four-time national champion in endurance racing events. That’s why people take notice when he tells them where he launched his career as a world-class endurance athlete. It began in Great Bend.
“Great Bend is actually an excellent place for outdoor recreation,” said Chambers. “There are opportunities there, which are as good or better than anywhere else because of the miles of open space and country roads to ride and run. You don’t have to be in Boulder or San Diego to train. It’s a great lifestyle that has its own set of training advantageous.”
Chambers will return to his hometown from Colorado Springs this week to run the half marathon at Human (e)Motion on Saturday morning. He joins former WNBA All-Star Jackie Stiles in promoting the Great Bend Regional Hospital event that includes bicycling, running and walking categories. All money raised from the event goes toward funding the Family Crisis Center.
Though Chambers no longer runs for sport — not even for training — running is the sport that launched his endurance career.
As a senior, he was a member of the 2000 Great Bend High School cross country team, which won a Class 5A state title.
Following high school, he competed one year for Colorado Christian College near Denver where he decided to shift gears to become a mountain bike racer.
It wasn’t until he moved back to Great Bend that his career as an elite endurance racer began to flourish.
In the fall of 2003, Chambers competed in British Columbia and became the Under-25 World Champion in 24-hour solo racing.
“When I moved back to Great Bend, that’s when something clicked in me and I started training harder and started believing that I could make it a career in this sport,” said Chambers. “I was living in Great Bend when I signed my first pro contract. It really was coming back home after living in Colorado for a couple of years when I took that next step as an athlete.”
Chambers lived in Great Bend for a few years and continued competing in races throughout the country before moving to Kansas City and then to Colorado Springs to advance his career.
Through that span, he has remained one of the top riders in the sport. He earned 24-hour solo racing titles in 2005 and 2010, and he’s won more than a dozen USA-Cycling-sanctioned races.
Last fall, Chambers competed as a duo to win his latest national championship in 24-hour mountain bike racing. He won a four-man national title in 2009.
Even when competing in shorter endurance races, as he occasionally does, Chambers has found success. Two years ago, he placed second at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals.
These days, when he isn’t training, traveling or racing, Chambers coaches for Carmichael Training Systems, which trains an array of elite athletes in endurance and aerobic development.
“My job is very open for me to ride and I have all the resources for training, which my company provides,” said Chambers. “I have plenty of travel time to go to events and race. It’s the perfect job. It really adds to my training and to my lifestyle that I get to lead as an endurance athlete.”
But after nearly a decade of enjoying the highest level of success in his sport, Chambers remains connected to his humble beginnings. That’s where he logged thousands of off-road miles along the Arkansas River and along many central Kansas country roads, worked at his dad’s Great Bend bicycle shop at Golden Belt Bicycle Company, and learned to follow his dream.
“I became familiar with athletes in the sport of mountain bike racing at a young age, and through the years, I came to realize that they are just people from all walks of life from all over the world with different experiences,” explained Chambers. “I knew I just had to work hard, stay with it and my time would come within the sport.”
Now that his time has come, Chambers continues holding to those same values that got him to the mountain-top of success, not willing to relinquish his elite place in mountain bike racing any time soon.