PROSPECT — As an elite off-road motorcycle racer, Prospect’s Nick Canny has persevered through a broken hand that sidelined him for a year and a half and a broken leg that required a rod and screws to piece it back together. But he’s never allowed such setbacks to shatter his dreams.
His resolve was rewarded this summer when he earned the right to compete for the United States in September in Germany at the International Six-Day Enduro, which will serve as the 87th annual Enduro Team World Championships.
“When I was a kid, my grandfather and uncle always talked about it like it was the Olympics,” Canny said. “As far as motorcycle racing goes, it’s pretty much the premier event to ride for your country. They always made it such a big deal that it became a dream for me. I wanted to qualify for it at some point in my lifetime to represent America. It’s amazing.”
The 23-year-old Kaynor Tech graduate began riding at 2 and started racing competitively at 12. He proved to be such a natural that by 15 he progressed into the expert class of racing, a status he said his uncle and grandfather never achieved.
By 20, he won the New England Trail Riders Association championship for his bike class and was ranked fifth overall in New England for all classes of racing. He then broke his hand in a car accident, however, and had to give up the sport for a while.
“You get to thinking sometimes that maybe, responsibility-wise, you shouldn’t race because I want to start a family and everything, but it is something I can’t give up,” Canny said. “I have a metal rod and screws that hold my leg together, but I keep going back because it is so much fun. It’s my life. And now it is more incredible than ever.”
Canny returned to racing last year. It’s second nature to him. The skills and success came back so quickly that he decided on a whim to go to the international qualifier, a two-day event consisting of a 105-mile race one day and a 107-miler the second.
“When you take a lot of time off, you come back wanting to do better and show people you still have it,” Canny said. “I felt prepared, but then you get there and you are going up against 17-year-olds who don’t go to school so they can race day in and day out. It was tough.”
Canny finished second to earn a spot on Team USA in the E1 class for bikes with 250cc four-stroke engines.
Canny works full-time for his stepfather’s construction company building barns and custom homes, and attends classes part-time at Naugatuck Valley Community College. But he still commits a lot of time to racing.
He rides at least three times per week, either in the woods of Wallingford and Union or on motocross tracks in Rocky Hill and East Haven. He also races every weekend in events throughout New England.
Because trying to control a 230-pound bike while getting bounced around on rough terrain complete with logs, rocks and mud is so physically demanding, he also works out in the gym and rides a mountain bike.
“Enduro racing is like riding a bull for six to eight hours,” Canny said. “It is nonstop beating on yourself and your bike trying to get up hills and over obstacles.”
The world championships will feature 480 riders from 30 countries competing in six days of racing, totaling 870 miles over hills, grass tracks, deep woods excursions and a long motocross challenge. Unlike the one-mile courses shown on ESPN races, the world motocross course will feature loops up to 50 miles long.
To make the challenge even tougher, the only people who can work on the bikes once the competition begins are the riders themselves. His father, sister, brother and fiancé will all arrive in time for the racing, but once the event begins, he has to rely totally on his own abilities to keep the bike running.
Canny said his mother and stepfather will go a week early with him to help set up the Spanish-brand crated rental bike he will get when he arrives.
“I will get a brand new bike in a crate to put together,” Canny said. “Then at the end of the competition, you hand it back in. They get pretty beat up so they really aren’t rideable again.”
Canny said the cost for renting and destroying the bike, along with his flight, hotel, parts and fuel, will total approximately $12,000. To help offset his expenses, he is seeking sponsors and also selling T-shirts or asking for donations on his team website, www.nickcanny.com.
“I’ve been following the Olympics because the patriot in me enjoys watching the Americans doing well,” Canny said. “I like to think that when we go over there to race for our country in the world championships, people will be supporting us as well.”