Interview: Talking cross with Ryan Trebon

Posted on 21. Sep, 2009 by in interviews

Ryan Trebon (KONA) on his way to winning Cross Vegas twice

Ryan Trebon (KONA) on his way to winning Cross Vegas twice

I’ll be honest and admit my knowledge of cross is minimal when it comes to the players and the tactics. While I have shot quite a few races and enjoyed the party,  I didn’t pay attention to the players and the tactics. How best to start my education than talking cross with the current USA Cyclocross Champion Ryan Trebon (Kona).

Last Friday morning, while getting ready for the first two UCI cross race of the season, the 27-year old Trebon  talked about the upcoming season, his schedule, and shared his knowledge.

Following our conversation, Trebon finished fourth after crashing in the mudfest that was the first race, Star Crossed on Saturday and pulled out of Sunday’s race Rad Racing. Next race will be Cross Vegas in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening, and we’ll be there.

You’re going to have to teach me about cross. I’ve been to cross races, I’ve had beer at cross races, that’s pretty much all I know.
That’s about it (laughs)

Cross season is starting. Are you ready? And how did you get ready for it?
We raced from March until now, you pretty use the whole summer preparing and training and stuff like that. It’s okay, I feel pretty good. Mountain bike season ended sometimes in August, the beginning of August so I’ve just been at home training and doing all sorts of stuff to get ready, it’s alright. I feel a mixture of excited, tired and stressed out.

Is that normal?
It’s the first race of the year, it’s a lot of equipment and so three bikes, so many sets of wheels and stuff like that. It’s just a lot to get ready for the first race and once it’s gone and out of my life, I just have to fly in to see it, it’s somebody’s else responsibility to get that ready (laughs).

Is it more pressure because the first race is in the Northwest?
Not really, I like these races but I’m not putting a lot of emphasis on this weekend. I’ve never won Star Crossed yet, it’s the only race in the US I’ve never won so we’ll see. I feel pretty good, I feel fit enough but shit happens during the races that you can’t control.

There you go, that’s the title ‘shit happens’.
Yeah it does sometimes. (laughs)  It’s going to be a bigger race this year with [Jonathan] Page and Christian Heule coming back, so we’ll see.

What’s your schedule this year? What’s your goal and are you going to Europe?
I am going to go, I don’t know the exact schedule of what we’re going to be racing in Europe, I’m still working on it. Going over there, there’s a lot of logistics to execute, flying out and stuff, so we’re working on it. Don’t know exactly yet but we’re definitely going to go race the Worlds again. I know that is one race that I am doing, Worlds, everything else after that don’t really know.

Is your goal in the US to rack up as many [UCI] points as you can?
Yeah, you want to get as many points but they way they structured the system, it doesn’t matter if you do every single race because they only count six C2 and C1. It’s not as if you can do just an unlimited amount of races and rack up points, once you maximize your points in C1 and C2 races, the only thing that counts after that is World Cups. The difference in starting fifteenth to twenty-third, they are all on the same row, so it doesn’t matter. For me, I want to get the racing in, get the results but I am not so worried about the points. People talk about chasing points… if I’m going to be starting on the third row, fifteenth in the world or twenty-third in the world now, it’s all the same thing. So I’d rather just focus on my training and not wearing myself out and going to smaller races or races that don’t really matter just to get twenty UCI points.

I didn’t know that there was a cap.
They changed it two years ago. It used to be that they were unlimited, and you could get as many points as you wanted, but they changed it.

Ryan Trebon (KONA) at Cross Vegas

Ryan Trebon (KONA) at Cross Vegas

See I told you I didn’t know about cross. You’ll be wearing the Stars & Bars, do you feel any extra pressure because of that? And are you marked even more?
I don’t think so. I don’t feel like anybody else was discounting me before. I don’t think it going to be different. It’s nice to be National Champion, it’s a cool thing to have.

Definitely cool. I assume you’re aiming for the jersey again this year.
Of course, especially as the race is in my hometown.

Now that’s pressure.
Yeah, well yeah. I put more pressure on myself than probably anybody else. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t get stressed out, I deal pretty well with it.

You’ve been with Kona for quite a few years now.
This is my sixth year.

Racing with the same guys for many years, how does it help with your racing? How important is team strategy?
It’s not as tactical as road racing, it doesn’t necessitate having a teammate as much as you do on the road because of the course, if there are sections where there is draft,it’s really minimal, so you’re drafting for twenty seconds on a six minute lap, this one two hundred meter pavement stretch, it’s not much. The strongest person will always win pretty much in cross because the courses are more challenging and they are technical, but it does help having teammates. Last year, I ended racing with Jeremy [Powers] and Tim [Johnson] [both on Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld team] most of the team, it was me and those two, so that gets a little frustrating when it’s just two on one but hopefully Barry’s fitness is better this year and we can try to make it two on two instead.

Well it’s more fun  to watch.
It’s not that it’s more fun, it’s just less annoying. (chuckles) It’s annoying you know when one person attacks and you just chase them down, the next person attacks and you’re like ‘alright, I’m well over this shit right now, you guys are pissing me off’ and that’s kinds of turns into you know. In all honesty, it just gets frustrating.

I assume that you are defending at Cross Vegas, as the only winner. [two-time winner]
Yeah, I’m flying out there on Tuesday afternoon.

How does that race compare to the other races?
Last year, they had some pretty good racers. Vervecken is coming and he’s bringing his teammate Berden, Heule is coming, those are all good racers. They’ve all gotten good results in Europe, I don’t know we’ll see. It’s a different course, just the way the grass is, it’s slow. It always comes down to the last lap, whoever has the most amount of power left in their legs, that’s how it was the last two years. People complain, ‘oh it’s not hard’ and ‘the course isn’t technical’. Not every race can be a technical mud fest. Would you want to do a road race if it was the same thing, day after day? It’s nice to have differences, I don’t get why people don’t like it. The course isn’t phenomenal, but it’s hard, the races don’t always have to be about having the most mud fun on the course, it’s about putting on a good show for the crowd and people enjoying it, that’s important.

So the North American Cyclocross Trophy series, starts with Star Crossed this weekend. Tell me about that race.
Star Crossed is either muddy or it’s going to be dry. It seems that it changes every other year, last year it was muddy. It’s not really fast, it’s kind of slower with lots of turns, a little technical, I wouldn’t say super challenging. It’s a hard race, definitely harder because it’s one of the first races for most people so you throw in mud and off camber and technical stuff and if you’re not used to driving a bike like that, it really hits for some people

It continues with Rad Racing on Sunday.
That’s really fast, a complete opposite to Star Crossed because it’s really fast, it’s got a super long run up and then a really ripping fast descent down to the finish line. It’s a hard race, it’s mostly hard because that run up is really long and it’s steep and the lap is not super long so you end up doing it nine or ten laps. If you take 80 meters time 10, that’s almost one kilometer uphill, full running, it’s not like an uphill ‘oh yeah’, it’s like a serious uphill. It’s pretty steep.

A few weeks later you have Gloucester.
I’m not going to Gloucester this year. But that one is just another fast, not super technical race. In the US, it’s one of the older races that we do, it’s been around a long time, it’s pretty well established. I’ve never had a bad race out there.

But you’re not doing it this year?
There’s just too much travel, and I can stay in Oregon and I wanted to do the first Cross Crusade race because to support the local stuff here. The first Cross Crusade is really huge, 1300, 1400 racers for a local event, it’s really huge.

Are you going to Toronto after?
Not going to Toronto, just too much travel (laughs). I’d like to go to Toronto, but the thing is, it’s a long way to get there, it’s expensive. We’re going to be racing in Cincinnati the weekend before so we’re just going to stay and train and get ready for the next USGP in Louisville Kentucky.

So what’s more important, USGP or NACT?
The thing with the USGP is that it’s more of a series, the NACT are all really good races but you wouldn’t know that there were a series if you went to one, they all seem like separate races. In the USGP because it’s the same organization and the same group of people that go to it every weekend, the races feel like that they are part of the same series. I don’t know if that’s better or worse, it’s kind of nice to have a different feel of a venue for each different promoter in a city instead of trying to have it be the same model but in a different city. I don’t know, they’re both do very good races.

Courses are described as muddy, fast, slow, technical… What type of course do you prefer?
I like courses that are just hard. Not technical but slow, there’s this one that can hide around in because it’s a 180 on a grassy field. I like courses that are technical, that are hard to ride fast and take a lot of physical exertion to ride them because, for me, I have good fitness, I want the course to be physically demanding that you’re cooked at the end of the race, and those are the ones I tend to do better at. I don’t mind if it’s muddy or if it’s sandy or it’s dry and fast, it’s all the same as long as it’s not this boring 180 in the grass, it’s not fun, you can only go 5 miles an hour around this turn, it’s not a section that if you’re fit you can go 12 miles an hour. Everyone is going 5 miles an hour.

So what’s the strategy? Is it go out as fast and hard as you can and keep it up for the race?
No, the first lap or two are fast and you get the front group sorted out. And then, you are racing off each other. We are not racing flat out the whole time, some races are like that, depending on the conditions. Like this weekend, especially on Saturday, it will be a fast two laps, the race will have slower laps and people will attack but it’s not going to be this… the last two laps are usually the quickest of the race.

Tall dude

Tall dude

Who would say are your top competitors?
It’s hard to discount having some of the European riders there. So for this weekend through the next weekend in Wisconsin, Vervecken, Page, Heule, those guys definitely have the resume for us to pay a little extra attention. Try to race off of them, we’ll see.  The US guys, you know how those guys are going to race, we’ve raced against those guys for quite a while, so they’ll be good. But I don’t know how Vervecken and the other guys, their fitness, so pay a little more attention.

So do you wish you have more Europeans coming over for races then? Because it seems to change the race.
The thing is, yeah, it would be nice for the bigger races but it’s kind of frustrating when the promoters automatically see somebody is from Europe and they ‘oh well, we have to get these guys over from Europe’, even if they are not any better of a bike racer or really that good, they still give them an extra, I don’t know, resence because they’re from Belgium. They could be a shitty Belgian racer you know. I wish there would be more but I don’t want people just to think that just because these guys are from Europe, they’re going to come over here and automatically assume that they are going to win the races because they are not. Maybe in the early 2000, it was different but now, I think that we are a lot more competitive. I don’t go these races and assume that Erwin is going to win the race, I’ve beaten him before and I’m not scared of racing. Christian Heule, he’s been here, we had good races that last time he was here, he beat me the first few, I beat him later.

What is your goal for the season? What do you think needs to happen for it to be good year.
I just win all the races, every single one. It’s easy to set a goal ‘I’ll just win this race’. I just want to win every race.

I think that would be more than good. (laughs)
That’s the kind of the plan. (laughs) I don’t go to races so that I can finish on the podium when I can win them, that why I train for. We’ll see.

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