Summit cyclist Lasse Konecny caps season with 1st junior World Cup race in Czech Republic
DILLON — Throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic, Summit County athletes who rely on international travel for training and competition have had mixed results with requests to go overseas. Terrain park skiers and snowboarders with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams have been able to make their way to the Stoming Grounds Park in Saas Fee, Switzerland, while national team program ski mountaineer Grace Staberg has been unable to secure travel to France.
Athletes are finding that different European host countries have differing opinions on granting access during the pandemic.
In the case of junior mountain biker Lasse Konecny of Breckenridge, the Czech Republic’s decision to host the Union Cycliste International Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, earlier this month provided him with an opportunity so many athletes have lacked in recent months.
While other mountain biking leagues and events have been significantly altered or canceled, Konecny capped the summer with his first chance to race in a junior World Cup event.
Konecny — who competed against the world’s best 17- and 18-year-old mountain bikers at the World Cup representing the Bear National Team — stressed that the process to race in the Czech Republic was not easy.
Before departing, Konecny said he had to pass three COVID-19 tests. When traveling, he wore a mask for 16 hours a day through Brussels and Prague airports, which required filing out contact-tracing forms. Once in the Czech Republic, Konecny and other mountain bikers continued to be tested for the virus through their stay.
“The whole team existed in a bubble,” Konecny’s father, Thomas, said about the COVID protocols. “It’s difficult nowadays to have no contact with the outside world, to go straight from lodging to venue and back. And yet, still, a masseuse and an athlete became positive. It was kind of a stressful environment. Everyone wants to race, but even if you follow all of the rules, separating with a bubble, there’s still some scare.”
Konecny qualified to start from the middle of the pack in the 104-cyclist race after earning some Union Cycliste International points at a North American race earlier this year.
At the somewhat natural, somewhat man-made course in Nove Mesto, Konecny said he was greeted by the most technical course he’s ever ridden.
“And the European riders are more developed through technical skills,” Konecny said. “Every single one on the start line is a contender. They all have certain successes in their own home countries.
Konecny said his race featured five 2.5-mile laps totaling a distance of about 12 miles on the rugged route.
“Overall, the course had quite a lot of exposed roots. You’re basically riding on roots 90% of the course,” Konecny said. “There are super steep incline climbs with slippery roots and rocks sticking out left and right. And since it’s very wet over there with the presence of rain around the corner, the rain creates mud, it’s slippery, your traction gets a lot less grippy, you start sliding everywhere. And along with that, the course had fast drops, insane rock gardens, technical climbs and super high-speed descents.”
Konecny raced up from that mid-pack position to one of the point-scoring spots in the top 25 before falling back to finish in 35th place. Considering the craziness of the trip — and whole season — as well as the training and racing he’s been able to do through the pandemic, Konecny considered the performance a success.
Still 16 years old, with a birthday next month, Konecny was one to two years younger than most of the riders in the junior World Cup race. That includes his Bear National teammates Riley Amos of Durango and Bjorn Riley of Boulder, two of the country’s other best young mountain bikers who represented USA Cycling in the junior world championships race.
Earning a spot at World Championships is Konecny’s goal for next year as he is focused on improving with local coach Jim Galanes through the winter to become a regular on the international stage.
“For Lasse, this was a huge experience,” his father said. “He doesn’t want to come to World Championships and have zero experience outside the U.S.”
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