After carrying the standard for West Coast cyclo-cross for nearly a decade, Ryan Trebon raised some eyebrows this spring when he signed with Northeast titan Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com for 2012-13 season. But the two-time US national champion says the East-West rivalry is still on, and he's ready to represent.
"Why should it ever end?" Trebon said shortly after dismantling the Elite men's field at the Oregon cyclo-cross opener earlier this month. "I always like racing out on the East Coast and that, but I'm a West Coast kid. This is where I'm from so this is where I will always live. It's just fun to bust everybody's balls."
The 6-foot-5-inch rider from Bend, Oregon, had cruised to his first win of the season over a grassy, singletrack-heavy course in a city park across the Columbia River from Portland and was cheering on his girlfriend, who was doing well in the intermediate race that immediately followed his own. Trebon took some time in between cheers to talk with Cyclingnews about the upcoming season, which peaks with the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, in February.
Since 2004, Trebon had ridden Pacific Northwest bike company Kona's machines to the top of the sport, winning the stars-and-stripes jersey in 2006 and 2008 and making the podium most other years, including silver-medal efforts the past three. He and fellow Oregonian Barry Wicks, riding under the moniker the "Twin Towers," ran up a streak of wins at the fledgling US Gran Prix of Cyclocross as they fought epic battles against former world's silver medalist Jonathan Page and his fellow East Coast stalwarts Tim Johnson an up-and-coming Jeremy Powers, who flew the colors of Stu Thornes's Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teams.
Eventually Wicks turned his focus to mountain bike World Cup races, but Trebon continued to battle against his Eastern foes, who rolled up their own impressive list of USGP wins and national championships. But the Kona versus Cannondale dynamic that animated the front of many US races changed in 2011 when Powers moved to the new Rapha-Focus team with Chris Jones and Zach McDonald. Trebon launched his own solo venture with longtime mechanic Dusty Labarr, while Johnson stayed at Canndonale-Cyclocrossworld.com with Jamey Driscoll.
Trebon and Labarr's 2011 effort, LTS-Felt, saw the rider produce one of his best seasons on the bike in years, but the project ultimately drew too much of Trebon's and Labarr's attention away from the bikes, so he shook things up again this year with his move to Thorne's stable.
"You don't want to be on the phone for three hours in the morning, then go train for three hours and then be on the phone for four more hours," Trebon said of what it took to run his own one-rider team last year. "It just got to the point where it was adding up, and we were like, 'Look, we can't keep doing this. It's killing both of us.' So we kind of got to the point where we were like, 'We've got enough money to go race and make a little bit at the end of the year, so let's just go race and get it done.'"
Trebon fired out of the gate last year with a win at the first USGP race in Wisconsin and set the tone for the rest for the season. He battled Powers down to the wire at the national championships but fell just short and took silver for the third consecutive year. He and Labarr hoped to build on the good results and were working on lining up sponsorship for another season when Thorne contacted them with an interesting offer.
"We were in discussions with a bunch of different companies, and bike companies and different sponsors," Trebon said. "Stu asked me, 'Would you consider racing for us?' And I said, 'Sure, why not?' He asked me what I was looking for in terms of support, and we came to an agreement. Stu knows I'm not asking for the moon, and I really trust Stu in what he could provide for us in terms if support and equipment, so there were no worries. It was pretty easy."
Now Trebon, who so often at races faced superior numbers from the Cannondale-Cyclcoross riders, could be on the other side of the equation, dishing the pain out with repeated attacks from himself and his teammates as Powers scrambles to defend his own hopes and his national champion's jersey. Is Trebon looking forward to possibly benefiting from the strong team that he so often had to battle against in the past?
"We'll see," he said. "Jeremy's got good teammates as well, so I think it will be good racing this year. We'll see how Tim [Johnson] and Jamey [Driscoll] are racing. I think they'll be strong enough to be at the front racing as well. I don't know, we'll have to see how the races play out, but if it's me and Jeremy, I expect good racing and us to keep beating on each other all year long."
Trebon said he hopes to come out strong in the early races again this year and then end with solid performances at the national championships and then the world championships, where he was the top American finisher last year in 18th.
"I should be able to contend for wins at the beginning of the season, so I'm planning on going into the season hoping to win the first couple of races," he said. "I'm not trying to build into the season. We had a great season last year, and I'm hoping for the same this year."
And Trebon would like to cap the season with his best-ever performance at the world championships in front of the US crowd. He said he'll include a couple world cups as preparation, including the Koksijde world cup, site of last year's world championships. But racing worlds in the US also means not having to spend most of January in Europe, something Trebon and the rest of the US riders hope will help lift them to the top of the results.
"I think at the end of the day, I feel good enough to where I think a top 10 is a pretty reasonable result," Trebon said of his own chances in Louisville. "And then if you have a good day and things go well, anything's possible."