Teen Among Payson's Racing Finest

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The Rim Country has long had a statewide reputation of producing some of the finest cyclists in Arizona.

Among them are former Mountain Bike Association of Arizona state champions John Lake, Wayne Gorry and Ken Shepherd, as well as standouts Brian Goble and Eric Molitar.

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Daniel Conley, 14, is rapidly becoming one of the finest cyclists in the Rim Country. The teen recently finished third in the National Mountain Biking Championships.

As good as those racers are, 14-year-old Daniel Conley might harbor the potential to become the Rim Country's most accomplished cyclist.

The teen's talent was first recognized by Gorry -- a Julia Randall Elementary school teacher, bicycling guru and two-time national title holder -- during the 2006 McDowell Mountain Meltdown mountain bike race.

Although Conley did not finish due to a broken derailer on his bike, Gorry predicted the teen would become a force to reckon with on the racing circuit.

As Gorry anticipated, Conley returned to McDowell Mountain the following year with a vengeance, winning the 13-14-years-age division championship.

He later pedaled his way to the MBAA state age group championship.

Conley's cycling quest continued July 21 at the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Championships at Mount Snow, Vt.

There, he finished third in his first appearance on the national stage, covering the 12-mile course in 1:41.55.31.

Last year as a Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader Conley maintained a 4.00 GPA, was a model student, won a bout with skin cancer and captured a chest-full of medals on both the mountain bike and road racing circuit.

On the MBAA tour, Conley was first at The Estrella Especial, Prescott Punisher, Payson Pounder, White Tanks Whirlwind and the McDowell event.

He also took firsts at the Copper Valley Stage race and the NOVA nationals.

In road racing last summer, he was first in stage, circuit and criterium events at the Summit Center Classic.

Following his accomplishments, famed cyclist Lance Armstrong sent Conley a hat, jacket, T-shirt and also autographed a Payson Roundup sports story about the teen.

Conley said his ambition is to someday become a professional racer and earn a living at the sport he loves.

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