Konig turned pro with Czech Continental team PSK Whirlpool in 2006 and would stay with the team until the end of 2010. During his time with PSK there were wins in Eastern Europe; but 2010 was the year it all came good with a stage win as well as the GC in Austria – not to mention a stage and GC win in the Czech Cycling Tour as well as stage wins in UCI races in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
2011 saw Leo move up a level with Team NetApp
He moved to German Pro Continental squad NetApp for 2011 and immediately posted solid results; 14th on GC in the Tour of Turkey, second on GC in the Tour of Austria, third on GC in the Tour de l’Ain and ninth on GC in the Tour of Britain. Still with NetApp for 2012 there was a TTT win in the Coppi-Bartali, a third on GC in the Tour of Utah and stage win in the Tour of Britain.
NetApp merged with British Continental team Endura for this year and good form was there early for Konig with sixth on GC in the Coppi-Bartali before his brilliant win in California. He took time to talk to PEZ shortly after the biggest win of his career . . .
Pez: How did you get into cycling ?
Leo: I started as an ice hockey player when I was 8 and used to ride my bike every summer as I prepared for ice-hockey. With 14 I turned to road cycling completely.
How big a sport is cycling in the Czech Republic ?
It is the most massive sport in Czech so it has a huge potential but we have only 5 pro riders in the peloton and that number will increase.
Tell us about your time at CSK Whirlpool, please.
I’ve spent 5 years there and for 2 years we turned PRO and that was a big experience. Without those 5 years I wouldnt be able to perform like I do now so I’m very grateful to this team.
2010 was your break through year, winning the Tour of Austria and the Czech Cycling Tour – why that year ?
I dont know why but after 2008 and 2009 as a ProConti team with very hard race program we turned back to Conti Team and I felt a real big progress as a rider.
NetApp for 2011 – how did you get the ride ? how did you get into the team?
We had some talks with NetApp within 2010 and I had some other options but I felt a big interest from the team that’s why I chose NetApp.
You were second in Austria in 2011 – that race seems to really suit you.
That was a breakthrough race for me after a bad result in California and Tour de Suisse and I started second successful part of the year with confidence that I can be up there with the best climbers of the world.
You were third in Utah in 2012 – the long travel doesn’t seem to trouble you?
I went to this race with a high expectation after an injury marred half season and I worked really hard towards it. I like that race with a lot of climbing but the travel of course had an impact but not so big.
The merger with Endura, how has it been for you ?
I believe, a merger is a challenge for every team because you have two different mentalities and even more nations. We try to take from both sides the very best and put it in one piece. I feel that it’s starting to pay off and the team is getting more and more together.
This year started well, sixth in Coppi e Bartali – your form is good.
It wasn’t really a start I dreamed of but then in Coppi things went well and I was again at my level.
Tell us about the stage win in California.
We didnt have a succuessful race until the TT stage 6 so we sat down and talked with each other we should change something and then things started to run again. Also the fact that our main sponsor’s based close to the race we wanted do the best on Mt. Diablo stage. I felt really well that day and I just thought about the win nothing else. The Team did an excellent job so my task was to end it with a win.
We heard a lot about the heat during the race – how badly were you affected ?
I dont mind about heat its even good for me but this stage was just too much in terms of temperature. I never experienced 50 degrees celsius before and on the last climb I was baking and almost didn’t make it over the finish line although there was only 1 cm left.
How would you compare California to a European race ?
Different roads (wide), quite different terrain and spectators they are just amazing as in Europe where the cycling is much more popular.
What were the US home teams like ?
I think they did a really good race and showed we have to count on them. They scored some very impressive results so it shows that US cycling is growing up.
Did the Czech media make a fuss about your win ?
Of course their interest was big after the win but they are following me close anyway.
The world’s media not just the Czechs wanted to talk to Leo after his great stage win in California.
You must be looking forward to the Vuelta ?
I think we can do really well in Vuelta as we have a great race program so far and we can do the best to prepare for Vuelta.
What’s your biggest dream in cycling ?
Enjoy and have fun.