Ryan Trebon recently announced his retirement from pro cycling. Over the course of his 14-year pro career, Trebon became one of the most visible athletes on the cyclocross and mountain biking circuits. (He’s 6-foot-6, so visibility came naturally.) Trebon was also one of the strongest and most entertaining athletes on the scene. He won national titles in cyclocross, short-track, and cross-country racing. He was never shy to show his emotion — both happiness and frustration — and was always quick to offer insightful comments on the action.
In the corporate world, the end of an employee’s professional tenure includes an exit interview with human resources. So we dug up our best HR questions for Trebon to gain some perspective on his career highs, lows, and in-betweens.
VeloNews: Why are you leaving?
Ryan Trebon: I just reached my expiration date. I still love to ride but lost my motivation to really make myself suffer in my training. Being injured for the last few years, and having to constantly rebuild myself after injury — I’m tired of that. I’ve had a decent career and I’ve done more than I thought I would ever do, so I just saw this as the right moment.
VN: Did this job match your expectations?
RT: When I first started racing at 14, I cut out photos of Mark Gullickson and Tinker Juarez and put them on my wall. I never told myself I want to win race X or Y, it was more that I wanted to be awesome like those guys. Once you list the races you want to win you set yourself up for failure.
VN: What was your favorite cyclocross course?
RT: I loved sandy races, like Koksijde and Hofstade. The course evolves every lap, and one line might be good, and then the next lap it’s gone. You can gain 10 seconds or lose 20 seconds, depending on whether you get it right or wrong.
VN: And your least favorite course?
RT: Any course that had snow and ice on it. I hated crashing on that [stuff] and was never good at it.
VN: What was the best victory during your career?
RT: It was a race on the [U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross] in Mercer, New Jersey, in 2007 or around then. I flew back from Europe and brought only one pair of mud tires, and of course it was super muddy. I got off the front, Tim [Johnson] was chasing me, and I had to pit every other lap to get the bike with mud tires washed. Tim closed a 40-second gap, and I was managing the course on these sub-par tires. Then I dropped Tim again. For me it was really fun. We made a not-so good situation work really well.
VN: And your worst defeat?
RT: The only one that still bothers me is the Big Bear NORBA National from 2004. It was my first year on Kona as a pro and I was leading the cross-country race for the entire race. That was back when mountain bike races were like 2.5 hours. Then I flatted on the last downhill. I was 23 years old and was so bummed because I was about to win. It took me another three years to win a NORBA race. That sucked. I was racing against Travis Brown and the other dudes who I really looked up to. I was totally inconsolable in defeat.
VN: What was your most interesting host housing situation?
RT: One time I was staying with a guy, and he was showing me photos of his motorcycle trip on his computer. He flipped through and there was this nude photo of himself. That was pretty weird. He was butt-naked on a rock. I was like, OK man.
VN: How about any strange racing memories from your career?
RT: The races I remember are the ones where I was completely blown out. One year Sea Otter was just the hardest, it was like 2:40 of racing on the big laps. I was so bonked that I had to stop and eat someone’s Doritos and cookies. It was just some spectator alongside the course. I remember riding up this final three-mile climb just chowing down on this dude’s Doritos. It’s like hey, I’m way out here, nobody is going to come pick me up.
VN: Do you believe your time in this career was successful?
RT: Yeah, I got to race during a period where cyclocross was growing, there was a ton of industry support, and people were interested. Media like Sam Smith’s “Behind the Barriers” series gave us attention and gave fans insight into the personalities who were racing. I don’t think the guys now have that level of interest. I don’t know anything about some of the guys racing now. I hope the sport gets back to that level. You don’t want to have just one guy winning every weekend.
VN: How would you improve your working environment?
RT: We need a quality national cyclocross series where everybody races against each other. We need more live coverage or delayed coverage, so you can actually see the races. The promoters and federation need to promote the racers as well as the races. I love watching motorcycle racing, because it’s the riders who are the stars. If you build the racers up as people worth following — you get to know them as personalities — you can get people to come watch. You can get excited about Jeremy Powers vs. whomever. Cycling needs stars and people to cheer for.
VN: Would you recommend this job to others?
RT: Yeah, absolutely. I have zero regrets. I’m definitely not leaving racing thinking that it was a waste of my time. I made a decent living at it, and most of my friends come from racing. It was gratifying and hard.