Ryan Trebon, one of American cyclocross’s torchbearers, isn’t used to starting at the back. But a year past a debilitating back injury, lacking UCI points, the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld rider started CrossVegas in 56th place, near the last row.
To those watching on TV, he won nothing. Wout van Aert won CrossVegas, arms up and alone off the front. His was a big victory, a visible victory. But triumphs away from the front, inside the field — those wins less quantitative and more contextual — happen all the time. They’re just harder to spot.
A year ago, Trebon couldn’t ride; eight months ago, he was racing in constant pain — “demoralized,” he said — and getting little enjoyment from the sport. On Wednesday night, over the course of one hour, eight minutes and 52 seconds, he fought past more than 40 riders to one of his best cyclocross World Cup results ever, in a group fighting for seventh place. The final result: 12th. But that’s just a number. Trebon felt good for the first time since 2013. That’s a win in its own right.
“It was awesome,” he said the morning after, chatting from his Vegas hotel room. “I was stoked that I felt good enough to make up for small mistakes. I felt good last night, was able to pedal hard, be aggressive and make passes.”
Trebon injured his back three days before the 2014 season opener. It took him out for much of the season, and even when he returned, he wasn’t the Trebon that fans knew. He was off the back, dropped by an ascendant Jeremy Powers weekend after weekend. “I think I saw Powers for like five seconds at the start of every race, then he’d be gone,” Trebon said. He laughs now, but it was difficult then. “I still enjoyed riding, but I wasn’t having fun racing. Once you know what it feels like to feel good, it’s so hard when you’re not there.”
Despite the solid placing, like any race, CrossVegas wasn’t without it’s difficult moments. Belgian Kevin Pauwels crashed midway throught the race, sending Trebon from the top 10, where he’d only just arrived, back into the middle of the pack
“I went from seventh to 35th, and for a few minutes there I was, just like ‘f—k, I’m over it.’ But then I regrouped, and I was able to ride back up to the front, into a group that covered seventh to 13th.”
“It’s one of the better World Cup results I’ve ever had, so I can’t be bummed at all. You always want more when you feel like you have something left; it’s always hard to be completely satisfied unless you win. But honestly I’m happy to be riding and sitting well on the bike,” he said.
With a few UCI points in his back pocket, Trebon is looking forward to a solid domestic racing schedule. He’ll forgo European World Cups this year, sticking to C1 and C2 events in the North America. After a tough year, he just wants to return to his old form.
“I don’t care if I get second place in every race,” he said. “I just want to be in every race, in the action. I want to be in the races, in there with Powers. That’s all I want.”