Young Nico Konecny wins gold at 2016 USA Cycling MTB National Championships
August 5, 2016
Editor's note: For countless Summit County residents, a bicycle is more than a machine — it's a lifestyle. Every week during the summer, we'll ask our most adventurous residents, "Where has your bike taken you?"
If you look back on your own bicycling history, your 10-year-old self was probably busy riding around the neighborhood in the summer, hanging with friends, or occasionally hitting some BMX jumps.
In the High Country, things are different for most kids. For 10-year-old Nicholas Konecny — better known as Nico — this summer brought a first-place finish at the 2016 Volkswagen USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships, held last month on the slopes at Mammoth Mountain in California.
In Nico's long and storied riding career — he started riding a Thomas the Tank Engine bike at age 5, and has graduated through a series of increasingly technical hand-me-down mountain bikes since then — it's quite the accomplishment, but not the be all, end all for a well-rounded kid who's looking forward to starting fifth grade at Breckenridge Elementary School in just a few weeks.
"I love Pokémon, but I would only do it if I could do it while I was riding," he says of the wildly popular mobile game. "I like to ride, and I'd rather do that than walking."
Nico beat out a field of 21 competitors on July 13 to take the USA Cycling title for kids aged 9 and 10, tackling two laps on just about the same 2.53-mile route the older kids and adults raced on.
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"We started with a quick uphill section and then took a dirt road to the singletrack, and there was a technical section with piles of sand," he says. "It was a really hard race, but I got a really good line when a kid moved out of the second row at the start."
Nico's parents, local athletes and cycling enthusiasts Thomas Konecny and Renata Blahova, both competed at the Olympic level in their native Czech Republic. But, they say that Nico's biggest inspiration — and his biggest supporter — is his 12-year-old brother, Lasse, who's already an accomplished rider in his own right.
"Everything's about competition with us, even brushing our teeth," Nico says.
As pre-teen athletics become deluged with the same kind of pressures placed on older kids, Nico's family says they hope that the action remains fun, positive and realistic, like racing in the local Summit Mountain Challenge series. Come winter, they also like to hit Moab when they can, where Nico tempted his first slickrock rides this year.
"Nico won the nationals on a $400 hand-me-down bike, and there were other kids there riding $10,000 bikes," Thomas Konecny says. "He was a little worried when we got there and he saw the bikes they had, and he was last in line. I still have my pro license and I don't know if I could keep up with him, or the other kids."
Along with biking, Nico and Lasse both are big participants in the Nordic Summit Ski Club, mixing roller-ski training with mountain biking in the summer. They've also shown a huge interest in hockey, though their mom says that would probably require a move to the Front Range to pursue more fully. National mountain biking titles will have to suffice in the meantime.
Nico is particularly proud of the stars-and-stripes jersey he earned, as well as a road ID bracelet he proudly wears. A bit of road rash from a recent tumble at the Keystone Bike Park suggests he's a pretty tough kid.
His move to the big leagues prompted his family to build him a custom 27.5-inch bike. It's a step up from his Kona, though he's also been on a Dawes Haymaker and a Trek Superfly in the past few years.
"We passed along my Thomas bike to our friend Otis, who's in first grade," Nico says. "That was an awesome bike."
Hopefully, this summer's accomplishment is the first of many for the young rider, though he has dozens of other goals, some related to biking, some just typical for a 10-year-old who knows what he wants.
"I want to continue riding for my life, and do Nordic too, and run for fun as well," he says. "And I want to go to the Olympic level in biking. But I also want to work for Apple and do programming. We made our own game and showed it to people at the school district last year (as) part of the programming club I started in the third grade."
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