Nico Konecny of Breckenridge won the boys 15-16 cross-country race on Friday, July 9, at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park.
Konecny, 15, won the 3-lap, 15-mile race with a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 1 second — more than a minute faster than runner-up Enrico Dimambro of Tucson, Arizona.
Konecny stuck with the 5-rider lead pack from the start before racing out to be one of the top two through the second lap. On the third and final lap, toward the top of an ascent, Konecny made his move ahead of a sketchy singletrack traverse. The move was a tactful, composed decision that ultimately propelled him to victory.
“This is definitely the biggest and best thing that has happened in my racing career,” Konecny said.
Konecny’s older brother Lasse, 17, watched his little brother race to the national title while waiting for his own national-championship race to begin two hours later.
“As soon as Nico crossed the line I screamed and yelled in my apartment and it motivated me to do well in my cross-country race,” Lasse said. “I knew the hard work Nico put in this year. He earned that jersey.”
Jim Galanes, the Konecnys’ coach, said that on top of his dedication to training, Nico Konecny’s mental focus and development of race plans and strategies separates him from his peers.
“He knows exactly how he wants to ride the race, and he certainly knows better about his own ability to perform than I ever could,” Galanes said. “That’s why it’s important for athletes to be responsible and take their own strategies into the race.”
Konecny credited Galanes for helping to improve his mental approach to entering race day.
“The mental aspect going into racing is just as — or maybe more important — than the work you do on the bike in training,” Konecny said.
Konecny excelled Friday despite his youth and small stature relative to the more than 130 cyclists he raced against. He will race again next year in the same age division and said continued focus on strength training will aid him in improving his chances in the short-track race, which he finished in fourth this year.
Konecny competes for the Bear National Team based in Marin County, California. The team of 15-23-year-old athletes features more than 30 of the country’s best mountain bikers, including Lasse Konecny and 2021 Summit High graduate Tai-Lee Smith.
Lasse Konecny bounced back from a recent infection to finish eighth with a time of 1:06:30 in the 3-lap, 15-mile boys 17-18 cross-country race. For the elder Konecny brother, it was a bookend to a difficult season that started with a fifth-place finish in a race in Puerto Rico. After the strong result in Puerto Rico, Lasse Konecny said an infection hobbled his ability to stay training on the bike until the lead up to nationals in Winter Park.
“I felt really good,” Lasse said. “This was the first race I felt pretty much back to to myself with my mentality and focus.”
Smith finished in sixth place in both the cross-country and short-track cross-country races in the women’s 17-18 division.
“I was going into the weekend hoping for more,” Smith said. “I raced the girls the whole season, and knew where I wanted to be, but it didn’t go as planned. But I had a consistent season going into it and I’m not going to base my whole season off of nationals. And I had fun. It didn’t go as well as I hoped, but it was still super fun in my last year as a junior. It was so good to see everyone and race everyone.”