American cross racer Ryan Trebon launched his own team, the eponymous L&T Sports, with his friend, mechanic and road manager Dusty Labarr. With Felt on board as a co-sponsor, Trebon raced mountain bike and road events this season, with a focus on getting ready for cross. And he started the season off with a bang, showing good fitness and motivation. Comments such as ‘the Ryan of old’ have been heard as the 30-year old claimed six wins, including two C1s.
Going into the third Exergy US Gran Prix of Cyclocross weekend, Trebon leads the series by 42 points over Powers, a series that the tall man hopes to win again which would make five out of eight years of the series. However, one thing that Trebon has not done this year is travel to Europe
On Thursday afternoon, Trebon took the time to answer our questions on his season, his team and a lot more. Labarr also popped up once or twice during the interview. This in-depth interview is part of our ongoing One-on-One series.
You started the season hot, winning since the beginning. Was that the plan. Can you sustain until Nationals?
It’s been two months and I haven’t gotten any slower. The first block of races, there are a couple of big races in there and there was also good competition. I didn’t want Bart (Wellens) and Rob (Peeters) and those guys to just come over here and win races, I wanted to fight them for it because I think it adds a little bit more credibility to win when you’re beating world champions and guys that have big reputations in Europe. I feel like that I’ve been consistently training between races too, we don’t have a ton of rest weeks so we’ve just been training and racing.
Can you keep it up until Nationals?
Sure, why not. ‘I’m starting the season slow and I want to be really good in January’, that’s what everybody’s line is right? (laughs) I want to go a good January.
Seriously, can you?
Yeah, I think it’s the best approach is to try to be at that 90 percent all year. I want to be consistent, I want to win races all season not saying that I want to win races for two weeks. I think it is easier to maintain the high level of fitness and then have really big peaks versus starting off at really low and trying to build. Because there’s not a lot of training time when you’re racing every weekend, you’re not consistently training so you need to put that in beforehand.
How can you peak for USGP?
For us racing in the US, these are the biggest most important races not only because they get the most media attention but they are some of the most well-attended, some of the best put-on events, super professional series that is just getting better every year. For sure, it’s a big goal again for us to win it, it would be nice to win it again. Four out of the seven years so far, it would be nice to win it again this year. We started out pretty well in Madison and Ft Collins, barring bad luck and sickness, I should be able to continue on.
Why are you better this year compared to last year? Is this the new and improved Ryan?
No, I think sometimes you just have off years physically, you have off years where you’re just not that good, and you have tons of other things in your life outside of racing that add up. It’s hard to say. I don’t feel that I’ve done anything vastly different this year, it’s just that sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t, so it’s not going back to the drawing board completely. You never know, you can crash, get sick, get injured, sometimes you just don’t race that well. You can do everything right, and then the racing goes wrong, and then you can do everything wrong and the racing goes right. There is no direct science into how to perform well at races, sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.
Any extra motivation this year given L&T Sports?
I think for sure that we are motivated to race but I was always like winning bike races. I’ve never not liked winning bike races, even when you’re riding bad, you have the desire to win, you just don’t have the fitness sometimes. We definitely want to do well and be the best program out there.
What does that mean to be the best program out there?
For me, it doesn’t necessarily equate to winning every race, the best results. We want to look professional, we want to represent the sponsors well, we want to be engaging with people that come to the races, so it’s not just win every race. I want people to look at us and see that we are what the sponsors want, a very good representation of their company towards the public and that right there is what a lot of people lose and think the racing aspect is the most important part.
Is that why you’re more active on social media?
No, I think it’s just what you have to do, people expect it. I like interacting with people, it’s interesting, I like cycling, it’s fun, people are into it. Right here (Louisville) is cool because people are really into it. People are out there in inclement weather, a lot of people race the races when it’s shitty cold weather and then come out and spectate. It’s easy to watch a race in the summertime when it’s 80° and sunny but the fans that come out and cheer for us when it’s 40° and raining, that’s hard core, they are true fans. That’s the cool stuff that I really like about cross.
You came here to do a local race here in September?
I came here the second week of September to do a clinic for Jimmy V Foundation and then I did two local races. It was actually a really good race too, a cool course that was out at this apple orchard.
Do you do clinics a lot?
I try to do as much as possible but sometimes it’s hard. I like seeing the improvement for people, you give them advice, just a different way of thinking sometimes, and then they try and ‘holy … that actually works’. It’s fun to teach people stuff.
You can look at somebody and tell them what to do?
Oh yeah. You can look at people and say everything that you do is wrong (laughs). Sometimes you’re just like ‘we’ve got to start from scratch buddy.’
What would be the most important thing that you’d say to somebody starting off?
Slow down. I always tell people to slow down, get the mechanics right and then introduce speed because a lot of people think that you have to do everything fast and then it’s just really rushed. They’re rushing to do everything because they’re not thinking about three different things ahead of time, they try to go out and do everything the last minute. They see us do it and it looks really fast, oh we can do that but don’t realize that I’ve been thinking of doing that three corners before this, what I’m going to do when I get to that corner.
When you pre-ride a course how much do you look at that?
You usually look at things like line selection, tire choice, tire pressure. For me, pre-ride is mostly for tires because the lines are pretty evident, you see them, it’s not like you’re riding through these rocks. Find out what tire pattern I want to use, what tire pressure. A lot of people just ride around slow and chat, you need to ride these courses fast so you can know what it feels like riding fast. Because I’ve ridden the course, thinking oh yeah the tire pressure is good, and then you go two miles an hour faster and it’s too low, the tires are rolling. So that’s why, when pre-riding, I like to ride fast laps, feeling how everything is working.
So how picky are you? How much do you change your tire pressure in a day?
I’m pretty easy, I have a pretty set standard. I don’t really go above a certain point and I don’t really go below because I know if I go below that, it won’t ride like I want it to. If you start focusing on the small things, you lose sight of the whole big picture.
Both you and Powers are a step above the others this year, so far. Are you surprised by that?
I was surprised that Christian has been hurting himself all year, it’s a bummer because he’s a great racer. And I’m surprised that Tim is as slow as he is this year as well too. I’m sure he’ll start racing faster and faster. Jeremy was good last year. People always think that I had a bad year. It wasn’t a bad year, I was always second or third, I wasn’t winning a lot of races.
Well for you because we were used to seeing win a lot. That’s why, people say it’s bad.
Well I wasn’t finishing sixth and tenth place. I was still there.
I know but people are still expecting you to win.
It’s hard, those guys were good last year. I can control how fast I can go but I can’t control how fast they can go and sometimes they’re just a little faster. You just have to deal with it.
You and Mr Labarr, started this new team this year, was it worth it?
Yes, I think we’ve done a good job. One, we’ve been racing well. Two, we have a pretty button down program. It’s been a lot less stressful and a lot more work.
That’s different, usually those two are not together.
Well when you’re in control of that work and you’re not having to make up for everybody else’s slack, it’s easy. I know how Dusty runs things, I know how he wants things done and he knows how I want things done. It’s like ‘here Dusty do this’ and he does it, or ‘here Ryan do this’ and I’ll do it. We work well together and it’s easy. So yeah, a lore more work, a lot less stress, a lot less money (laughs)
One of those three typically doesn’t go with the others.
It’s more manageable when you like what you’re doing. All the money in the world is not worth it when you’re not happy.
What was the most difficult or surprising part, for you, of doing this? Did anything surprise you, good or bad?
I don’t know. I think the biggest surprise was dealing with just different companies. You always think that you have more friends than you do. You find out who’s actually invested in you versus people that just say things and don’t follow through with anything. You found out the people that actually like you versus the people that are just hanging around when times are good. I think that was a big learning experience for me this year. So that’s why we’re grateful for the really good sponsors that we have because these guys stepped up and have really taken care of us and that means a lot.
Okay so I have to ask the question: what about a title sponsor?
We’re still working on it.
You win a lot. You’re a proven name, why is it so hard?
Labarr: We’ve done an incredibly good job of establishing relationships in the cycling industry but outside of the cycling industry, that’s where the title sponsors come from and that’s a different ballgame. Ryan is is really well-known name in the cycling industry but compared to Nascar and other things that you’re competing with, it’s just a smaller sport. It’s just not as big as Nascar, it’s not as big as Supercross.
How involved are you in choosing the bikes, and components. What’s important for you?
Fit. Things have to fit. Felt was good, when we started to talk to them, they found out what I needed bike wise in terms of geometry, weight and ride characteristics. They went and they built a bike and it’s the best bike I ever had. It’s extremely lightweight, it rides really well. This year I think my riding has gotten better.
Is it because of the bike?
Not 100 percent but it’s just little tweaks. The geometry is just a little bit different, the weight is a little bit lighter, the wheels are a little bit stiffer, the brakes work a little bit better, it’s just those little things. It’s not like it’s a 40 percent difference from before but when you ride, those little things make a difference especially when you’re coming hard at the top. You’re already at a certain level and those little things make a difference. I’ve been really happy with everything for my bike, the Clement tires have been really great this year, the Zipp wheels, all the SRAM stuff has been awesome. And the bike is light, 16 pounds, that’s pretty crazy for a bike my size. And it’s extremely reliable too.
Does that give you more confidence maybe?
I’ve always been confident, extremely confident in all our bikes before because everybody produces really good bikes, they all make good products. It’s not the confidence in the equipment, it’s feeling confident on it. I don’t think that the SRAM stuff is going to break, or is more durable than what we had before but when I’m sitting on it, it feels comfortable and I feel like driving the bike. I don’t know, it’s hard to say sometimes. Like I said before, maybe my fitness is a little bit better and I’m not on my limit when trying to ride and so I’m a little bit more calm and comfortable and I can control the bike like I want.
Did you change your training at all this year? You did less mountain bike racing right?
Not so much less, I skipped doing races in March, that’s the only thing that was pretty much different. I did a bunch of road races at home, I’ve been training a lot.
But your fitness is better.
The fitness is good. I don’t know.
Now that you’re a team of one when you’re racing, does that change how you race?
No. A couple of years ago, 2005, 2006, Barry (Wicks) was riding better and it was us pretty much racing at the front with Tim. But the last couple of years, Barry has been good but he’s been in that fifth to seventh kind of spot, so I’ve been stuck by myself racing with those guys. Just stuck out there, riding with a couple of people and it’s the same people as last year.
Nothing has changed really, it’s always the same three, four at the front.
I think Jeremy has become more consistent. Before, he’d be good one weekend and then … it’s just maturity and age and he’s just getting better. And there are some people that have fallen off a little bit and there’s a couple of guys that are stepping up and doing well.
Looking at the U23s coming up, there seems to be a gap.
I think there’s a gap between guys 22 and guys 28, there’s an empty spot there. There are young guys like Summerhill, Eckmann, and others that are going to be good but there’s still two or three years before they’re really good. There were a couple of U23s, guys like Anthony who’s not racing, Weighall who’s been kind of underachieving, the others have either done other things or have not continued.
Any plans of racing in Europe this year?
Yeah at the end of the season. We’re going to do that race in Chicago on New Year’s, go home, come back to Madison. I looked at doing that World Cup in Liévin in France but basically it’s a lot of money, for me and Dusty, that’s a pretty big expense. We might just be at Hoodgerheide and Worlds. And then I’ve actually talked about trying to stay afterwards and racing a little bit. I’ve done the one weekend after, Hoogstraten, but I haven’t done the following weekends. It’s just three more weekends of racing and they’re all C1s.
That’s good for next year.
Yeah, there’s a bunch of racing. I don’t know.
How important is it to race in Europe.
I enjoy racing in Europe, it’s pretty important but I do not living other there, it’s really hard. For me, I like living in the US. I can be over there, the training, the traveling, the racing, is all really good but I get bored. What do you do all day?
I don’t know. What do you do all day here?
I don’t know. (laughs) The weather is nice at least here. Hanging out with Dusty or hanging out with the guy we’re staying with. It’s just something different. When I’m over there, all I know is Dusty. (laughs)
But you like the racing.
I do. In the US there are some really good races but some… over there you always get your money’s worth, big events, hard events, good courses, there are tons of people there. You feel that you’re at the top of the sport which it is and that’s why I like racing over there. The courses are challenging too.
You have the C1s but also the World Cup points for Worlds coming up in Louisville.
For me it’s just not possible this year, the travel is just too expensive, it’s just not financially feasible to do that. We want to build up this program and racing in the US is a good way to get constant exposure every weekend and doing well at the races. Next year, we’ll see, I figure we’ll do some World Cups. It can wear you out traveling across the country. I think the difference between starting on the first row and starting on the second row isn’t worth $20,000 flying.
Really, you don’t think it makes that big a difference?
You’re either good or you’re not. You can be on the front row, have a bad day and you suck, you’re going to go backwards pretty fast. You can start on the third row and still be competitive. You can start on the third row and be pinched against the barriers and crash.
What do you think about being called Trebo-hoo and some of the other names? Do you care? You say that you don’t but is that true?
Not many people can get under my skin. I internalize all my angst (laughs) I don’t let it get to me, I push it into a deep dark spot in my soul.
(laughs) You don’t care.
You know, you can be the nicest guy in the world and somebody is not going to like you.
Tell me something about Ryan that we don’t know.
Labarr: Ryan has been racing in public, all year, for ten years now.
What does Ryan do on his off days?
Labarr lay with his dog, ride motorcycles.
Just two dirt bikes and stuff, that’s what I like to do.
Any final words?
Just eternal gratefulness for all our great sponsors.