Crown Payson High School junior Daniel Conley the national champion he’s always strived to be.
The 16-year-old cyclist earned the elusive title Oct. 10 and 11 at the 2009 USA Cycling 24-hour Mountain Bike National Championships held near Moab, Utah.
There, he was the starring member on the Quadruple Gnar four-person team that finished first in the Men’s Junior Class and 12th overall among the 50 teams competing.
In the race, Conley’s relay team completed 19 seven-mile laps never resting during the 24-hour time period.
The race began at noon on a Saturday and ended noon on Sunday.
The second-place team, Rubber Side Up, completed 17 laps and Team Mata, the third-place finishers did 16.
Conley rode seven of his team’s laps two of which were in 1:10, the fastest in the Junior Men’s Class.
While some might argue cycling 49 miles is a challenge, Conley took it all in stride, “It wasn’t the hardest riding I’ve ever done ... but it was a thrill winning a national championship.”
On the winning team with Conley were Kallan Creiger, Ryan Geiger and Casey Williams.
Creiger is from Phoenix, Geiger hails from Flagstaff and Williams calls Big Bear, Calif. his home.
The four have long competed against one another on state and national racing circuits and became friends while attending a USA Cycling Regional Mountain Bike Development Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Mark Geiger, Ryan’s father, helped put the team together and was along on the trip as a coach.
“I’d say these four boys are among the top 10 young cyclists in the country,” he said. “They are phenomenal.”
In addition to Conley’s success in cycling, he’s also an honor roll student maintaining a 4.00 GPA.
“Last night at 1 a.m. we had to tell him to stop doing his homework and go to bed,” his father said.
At Moab, Conley and his teammates were among the more than 4,000 athletes, support crew and spectators who turned out for the championships that were conducted on a course of high-speed double track, technical sections and sand traps.
Since its inception in 1995, the Moab race has earned a reputation as one of the largest and most prestigious 24-hour races in the world, officials say.
If there were elements of drama in the mountain bike race it centers on the Conley family’s confusion of race dates.
“There was a mix up, we thought it was was the following weekend,” said Daniel’s father George. “I was in Michigan visiting when I got a frantic call from the coach wondering where Daniel was.”
The teen was near Moab pedaling through a recreational ride with Rim Country Middle School teacher Scott Davidson, also an avid mountain biker.
Knowing they were wrong about the race dates, Davidson helped hustle Daniel to the racing site. But, the teen had to take to the course without his personal bike and didn’t have the opportunity to pre-ride as other entrants did.
However, Daniel was able to borrow a racing bike, but it wasn’t equipped with lights for night riding.
His teammates had extras, which he was able to use.
“Everything kind of worked out for me,” Daniel said.
Despite the adversities the teenager faced, he rose to the occasion to lead his team to victory.
Although Conley’s victory in Moab was his first national championship, he has accomplished some amazing feats in his young career.
Last summer while competing in USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Cross Country Championships near Granby Ranch, Colo. he was ninth in the elite Category 1, Men’s 15-16-years division.
His time of 1:53.34 over a 17.8-mile course was just 8-plus minutes off the overall winner’s pace.
Just months earlier, Conley won the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona State Championship in the Category 1, Men’s 15-18 division. amassing 403 points during the eight-race series.
Conley raced onto the national scene about a year ago when he attended the camp at the Olympic Training Center.
He qualified for the camp with his first-place finish in the MBAA 18-years-and-under Men’s Sport Division.
He also has won gold medals at the Copper Valley Stage race and the NOVA Nationals.
At the 2007 USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Championships near Mount Snow, Va., he was third in his first appearance in a national competition.
He also is the proud owner of a platinum racing medal for riding the 109-mile El Tour de Tucson in under six hours.