He played tee-ball, dabbled in soccer and wrestled a year in high school, but team sports weren’t really his passion. Turner felt most at home running his bike through the woods and fields on his family’s land.
The Eagle Scout and 2001 graduate of Sequoyah High School found his passion when he was about 15.
“My parents convinced me to try out a mountain-bike race,” Thomas said. “Growing up on a farm, I rode my mountain bike around recreationally. They thought I might as well try a competition and see what I thought of it. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Thomas currently races in the masters division for racers between ages 30 and 34. He participates in both mountain-bike and cyclocross races.
Turner is currently preparing for the 2013 Masters Cyclocross World Championships, which will be held in Louisville, Ky. Last season, he finished second in the event, which was held on the same course, behind Sven Van Eyndt of Belgium.
This year, he has his eyes on first place.
“I’m hoping to better (last year’s) result,” Turner said.
Cyclocross is a high-energy mix of bicycle racing and the steeplechase. Racers compete on surfaces that include pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles that require dismounting, running and remounting. The obstacles include sandpits, stairs, barriers and tight turns.
Each race lasts between 40 minutes and an hour and consists of multiple laps around a 1½- to 2-mile course.
Racers are given the opportunity to take pit stops where they can quickly exchange bikes or get mud washed off.
“As far as an event goes, it doesn’t get any more prestigious than this,” Turner said.
Turner, who also works at Out Spokin’ Bicycles in Woodstock, graduated from Clemson University with a degree in resource management. While furthering his education, he also continued his racing career and was the top-ranked collegiate cyclist in the Southeast.
“Mountain-biking is definitely my forte,” Turner said. “I like the self-challenging aspect and the ability to get out to lots of places. The scenery is always changing. Even on a familiar race course, there is always something different.”
Turner said that the sport is a lot more accessible now than it was when he got his start. He mentions trails such as Big Creek Park in Roswell and Blankets Creek in Canton.
“It’s definitely picking up now,” Turner said. “It used to be fringe, but it’s getting big now.”
Turner said he competes in about 20 major cycling events ever year and travels throughout North America and Europe, and he’s an eight-time Georgia state cross country champion and a four-time Georgia Games champion.
In 2002, he was the top-ranked junior racer in the nation, and in 2004 was the top-ranked under-23 racer. He was a three-time Georgia cyclocross champion from 2010-12.