MADISON, Wisconsin (VN) — While his top domestic rivals were in Europe contesting the World Cups in Namur and Zolder over the holiday week, Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) was in San Diego, California, training alone for the national and world championships. Come Sunday, he’ll get an idea for how his domestic build-up has prepared him for the most important three weeks of the season.
The UCI Elite Cyclocross World Championships will be held on U.S. soil for the first time in history in February, and the race for UCI points for the home team has been hot. Despite their efforts in Europe, however, neither reigning national champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), ranked 12th, nor Tim Johnson (Cannondale), who is ranked five slots below Trebon in 21st, will achieve a first-row call-up. Having all but secured an automatic slot on the world championship team by way of being the second-ranked American within the top 50 internationally, which he must retain until January 14th, Trebon’s tactic of focusing on training rather than world championship call-up has freed him of the fatigue that comes with traveling and racing in Europe on multiple assignments in the three-month build-up to nationals weekend.
Trebon has taken advantage of the early-winter Southern California weather for the past 13 years. After beginning his 2012-13 season feeling under-rested, Trebon’s decision to stay in California allowed the Oregon resident the ability to train with minimal distractions and rest effectively. But now is time to see just how well the warm-weather training block has paid off.
Trebon will contest the elite national championship in Verona, Wisconsin on Sunday, his first UCI race since the mid-December Trek U.S. Gran Prix finale in Bend. VeloNews caught up with him and discussed training strategy, untimely sickness, world championship goals and plans after worlds.
VeloNews: You got caught by a stomach bug recently. Are you back to good health?
Ryan Trebon: Yeah, last Tuesday I caught a stomach bug for three or four days. I’m not too worried about it. Sometimes you’ve just got to think it takes more of a hit to your confidence than how you feel. I actually feel really good.
VN: So it didn’t set you back much?
RT: No, it set me back quite a bit, I didn’t feel good for about a week. I didn’t feel good training until about Monday, but every day I feel better on the bike and I feel better about my chances. I was feeling really good beforehand but then you get sick and then you start riding and thinking, “I’m weak and I’m slow,” and you don’t really eat for three or four days. It just takes a while to really build all your stores and get ready to go. I’m feeling good.
VN: Do you have a strategy worked out for nationals?
RT: I’m going to try to be the first one to cross the line. I get there Friday night, I’ll see the course on Saturday. It just depends on how the course looks. Sometimes you can feel as good as you want leading up to the race, but you just have a bad day, and sometimes someone’s just faster, so thus far my strategy is going to the race and doing my best and seeing what we get out of it. Nothing too exciting.
VN: With so many discretionary slots for worlds on the line and some people’s nominations hinging on winning this race, do you see anyone outside of the main three (Trebon, Powers and Johnson) winning nationals?
RT: (Jonathan) Page (ENGVT) is obviously riding well, I would say Jamie Driscoll (Cannondale) has a chance at doing well, also. It’s a hard course because if the weather turns out like it’s been, where it’s soft and muddy and then starts to freeze again, it’s definitely going to be pretty challenging and would definitely tend to favor someone else. I have no idea who’s going to be better than anyone else, but I don’t think it’s someone super out of the ordinary. Based on how the course is turning out, I don’t think it will favor someone like Powers over anyone else. Jeremy’s been riding really well this year, but I think it’s going to be extremely challenging out there, both physically because it’s hilly and technically because it’s frozen and it’s going to be muddy and it’s going to be really hard to ride. I think someone like Tim (Johnson) could do better than the rest of us on it just because he tends to do well when the course is really slick — and not just muddy slick, but icy slick.
VN: What conditions are you hoping for?
RT: I kind of hope the course doesn’t freeze as much. I kind of want it to stay just wet and really sloppy the whole time.
VN: You’ve taken a different approach to balancing training with points-seeking than Powers and Johnson. Why did you stay stateside?
RT: I don’t believe in that idea that you’ve got to chase points to try to start on the front row at the world championships. If it turns out that my fitness is going to be good, I’d rather start on the third row with really good fitness than start on the front row and be kind of worn out from the travel. I think that’s a bad idea. It’s pretty easy to go from the third row to the top five at the start, and it’s just as easy to go from the front row to 30th at the start. The start’s such a crap-shoot that it makes a difference to get a good start, but I don’t think that starting on the front row is necessarily the most important thing in the world. I wanted to come to California and just train. We’re doing a bunch of training and I feel good on the bike. For me, that’s how I feel fast, if I can consistently every day ride my four hours. I’m feeling good about myself and I think it will pay off.
VN: Did those guys make the wrong choice by racing in Europe?
RT: I don’t know, but we’ll find out. We can argue about who had the better idea, but really we’ll find out who had the better idea over the next couple races.
VN: What has your training been focused on in California?
RT: I tend to respond well to a lot of volume. I’ve been riding a lot of hours and intensity, too, to get ready for this race. I’m stoked; I feel good about it. I think it was time well spent. It was good weather, even though it wasn’t as good as it was last year. It’s been kind of rainy and cooler than I would like, but when it’s 60 degrees it’s a lot better than when it’s 46 degrees. The riding’s awesome around here, so I’ve got no complaints. I’m just by myself, but I kind of like to train alone. My girlfriend came down and was here with me, but she had to go back to work, so I’m just down here hanging out by myself. It just gets boring when you’re all by yourself.
VN: Who coaches you and what encouragement did he give you to impact your choice to stay stateside?
RT: I’ve been working with him for like 10 years now. He works for CTS (Carmichael Training Systems), his name is Jim Lehman. We’ve been working together for a long time and he knows how I like to train and it’s been a good choice, I think.
VN: What will you work on after the national championships, leading up to worlds?
RT: More of the same. The worlds course is really different than the nationals course. The worlds course is fast and short little accelerations, whereas the nationals course is more of just a good grind all the way around the course. It has two significant climbs to it, so at nationals you need to be able to be on the gas for, like, four-to-five minutes at a time and put in the big efforts, but at worlds it’s all about these hard accelerations coming out of turns. The efforts aren’t especially long at worlds, but they are at nationals, so just focusing on threshold stuff here and then some max-output stuff before worlds. That said, not much changes. You need to be fit all around most of the time.
VN: What would you say is a realistic goal for you for worlds?
RT: I’d like to ride extremely well, so I think I can finish extremely well, whether that means finishing 10th place or finishing fifth place, but I feel good. I don’t know, I haven’t set a specific goal, like in terms of a number where I want to finish, I just want to go out there and race hard and have a clean race and not make any mistakes and get off to a good start and just ride well. I think if I could finish somewhere around 10th that would be a good race. It’s just hard; I think people underestimate how challenging the races are, you know? Just how fast they start, it takes a lot. It takes a lot to make everything happen on one day. I think I’ve had a good season and I’d like to finish it off with a good worlds, but if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen.
VN: Has your season shaped up how you expected?
RT: Yes and no. I was talking to someone the other day and saying I feel a little unimpressed with my season, personally. I do wish I would have won more big races. Sometimes you do the best you can to prepare for the season and you go a little wrong. I think something was a little off, I don’t know what. I kind of made up for it, I had some good races, it’s just you always want more, right?
VN: What are your plans after worlds?
RT: I’m not going hang up the bike. Plans, tentatively right now, are to do the first Pro XCT race in Austin in March, which is only like three weeks away (from worlds), and then there’s two more in California. I can keep going hard for another month and get some good races in and get some good results for my sponsors — I race for Clement and Cannondale on the mountain bike — so if I can get some good results for them, that’s what I really want. Not so much results for myself, but more to showcase Clement and Cannondale. We’ll see, but I feel good, so I’d like to race for another month and then take a break after that.
VN: Have you been training in Louisville?
RT: Nope, I’ve just been staying here in California. I’m coming right back here Monday morning, and I’m going stay here until the Thursday before that Cincinnati race [Kings International on January 26 —Ed.], then I’ll fly out to Cincinnati. You can’t beat it out here. The weather here is consistently good and the riding is great, and it’s easy to ride all day here, so it’s hard to beat.
VN: What is your prediction at this point for the world championship podium?
RT: No, I don’t have one, actually. It will be interesting to see. A lot of people will have trouble dealing with the travel and time changes and stuff like that. It’s always easier coming back over here than I think it is going to Europe. I think that guys that have some more of that experience are going to do well here. I don’t know, we’ll see. But, I don’t really care how anybody else does besides myself, so I’m not so worried about it.