Two-time US cyclo-cross champion Ryan Trebon has been largely absent from the top of the race scene since fracturing two vertebrae in a crash in September 2014 but says he has finally rehabilitated a separate herniated disc in his lower back and has renewed motivation to keep racing and regain his best form.
On his personal Facebook page, Trebon describes underestimating the seriousness of his fracture and a painful descent into anonymity that lost him the majority of his sponsors, with the exception of his Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld team for cyclo-cross.
"When I fractured [my] back at the beginning of last season I was naive (stupid) and didn't want to admit just how serious of an injury it was," Trebon wrote. "So I pushed thru the discomfort and pain, tried to come back to racing too quickly, didn't do enough work on the back end rehabbing my injury. And as a result, I suffered mightily all season, and well into the spring and summer of 2015. It for sure took its toll physically on me, constant pain, not really able to sleep that well. It all beat me down so heavily that mentally I was ready for the 2015 CX season to be my last [as] a professional."
Trebon won the US cyclo-cross titles in 2006 and 2008, and took second place four times since his last national championship win. But after being at the top of the North American scene for the better part of a decade, finishing well off the podium became painful.
"It's funny how something you love to do can become something you dread so much. I was over-riding and racing bikes. I wasn't enjoying the effort, the process, the journey. When the desire for racing was waning other opportunities started to present themselves and I took that as a sign that I was making the right decision to step away from racing after this season."
Trebon's preparation for this season was on track, and he narrowly missed the podium in the GP of Gloucester in September despite several punctures, but the next week in Providence he began having pain and weakness in his left leg - the result of a herniated disc in his lower back that has bothered him on and off for several years.
"All of October and November, I was essentially racing on one leg and still getting decent results at a handful of races. I was so f___ng frustrated not being able to show what I was capable of. But more so because I was really enjoying the racing, I was aching to get results and was starting to want to continue racing for a few more years."
Since finding out the cause of his leg pain, Trebon has been training for the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships, which take place in Asheville, North Carolina this week, but is realistic about his chances to claim a third title.
"I respect my competitors too much and know just how good you have to be to be at the top, and in all honesty I am not there right now," Trebon wrote. "I plan on going out there next weekend, racing my ass off, taking risks, representing my sponsors as best as I can, and we will see what comes of it.
"The guys at Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld have been hugely supportive the last two season even through my lackluster results, and I appreciate it to no end. I also know I will most likely not be back on the team next year as the younger guys are proving their worth and sometimes there just isn't space for an old man.
"Who will I be racing with next season? I have no idea and honestly not really any prospect at the moment either. All I know is I will for sure be out there, even if I have to sell everything I own to fund myself. I love racing, riding, talking about bikes, sharing the experience with people, and for me finishing my career the way I want to is important. Plus I’m ready to kick some ass again. I’m 34 not 44. I have a few good years left in me still."