Sometimes athletic genes run -- make that bike -- in the family.
Joseph Schmalz, 9, had his grandfather's help as he pedaled to a first-place medal in the Sunflower State Games 9-under race Sunday at East Hills Business Park.
In his first-ever race, Schmalz led the pack for most of the one-mile race, comfortably defeating Leavenworth's David Sheehan.
Schmalz said the windy course did not unnerve him, although it did bother racers later in the day. One athlete crashed in a later race on a turn while trying to make up time, resulting in a badly scraped leg that required medical attention.
The only tough part for Schmalz was, "the hill at the very end."
Schmalz did not hesitate when asked his favorite part of riding.
"Winning," Schmalz said with a smile, although by then he had stopped wearing the gold medal he was awarded. It sat in his father's truck.
Bicycling is nothing new to Schmalz, whose grandfather, Gary McGregor, owns a bike shop in Atchison.
"He helped me get my bike ready," Schmalz said.
Schmalz, who will be a fourth-grader at Deerfield Elementary, also plays soccer. He recently participated in a soccer camp that featured semi-pro teams from Great Britain. But Schmalz said he is starting to enjoy bicycling more.
Schmalz was the only winner from Lawrence in the SSG bicycling races. In fact, there was only one other competitor from the area. Most racers trekked from Topeka and eastern Kansas to participate.
Schmalz did not know until he was told that he was Lawrence's lone winner. But he quickly smiled after the news.
"It feels good," Schmalz said.