Payson Teen Riding To The Top

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A Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader is pedaling his way -- over hills, rocks, cacti and lots of miles -- to the top.

Thirteen-year-old Daniel Conley is a mountain biking and road race cycling extraordinaire.

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Daniel Conley began mountain biking only two years ago, but the 13-year-old has already won several races. The middle-schooler will compete next in the White Tanks Whirlwind on March 24, then in the Payson Pounder on April 14.

Since getting started in the sport just two years ago, Daniel won numerous races and was Arizona's road racing champion last year, said Daniel's dad, George Conley.

"He lives on his bike," George Conley said.

Most recently, Daniel participated in the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona's Estrella Especial on Feb. 24 -- the second race in a statewide series of five races each year. The race had 116 entrants, aged 12 to more than 50 years old, but only one winner -- Daniel.

The timed race consisted of a very technical desert course on Estrella Mountain in Avondale. Daniel scorched the competition with a time of 53 minutes, 12 seconds.

The course is very rocky and has a lot of hills, George Conley said, but not enough of either to slow Daniel down.

After winning the Estrella Especial, Daniel competed in the Copper Valley Road Race in Globe on March 3.

Daniel raced in the criterion consisting of .6-mile laps for 25 minutes, followed by an additional six laps. The best time won. Again, the win belonged to Daniel.

"He followed close behind the lead rider until the final lap and then passed the leader and sprinted ahead for the victory," George Conley said.

With instruction from many local bikers, including mentor Dan Basinski, Daniel has raced up the ranks as a top competitor in Arizona.

Daniel has hopes of becoming a mechanical engineer and designing bikes, his dad said.

Along with proven racing ability, Daniel seems to know bikes. His dad said that he owns quite a few.

"He's got one good bike for racing and one good bike for mountain biking," George Conley said. "Plus, a whole bike shop full of parts.

"You have to have good equipment to be competitive," George Conley said.

Daniel will take on three more races in the MBAA series this year -- the White Tanks Whirlwind at White Tanks Mountain Regional Park on March 24, the Payson Pounder on April 14 and the Prescott Punisher on May 12.

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