After moving to Boulder, Colorado as a fresh-faced teenager in the mid 2000s, I was taken aback by how big the bike culture actually was. I had, of course, read about Colorado cycling in the well-worn magazines I had been hoarding since the age of twelve, and I had discovered bmx while waiting for a plane on a family vacation. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of the town. It really is everything you have read: PROville USA. From getting passed by Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski on a climb (and thinking that anyone who wears someone else’s national championship kit must be a d-bag—before realizing who he was, and that he had actually dropped me by a 10 mph difference while breathing through his nose) to seeing a prominent doper buying tubes in a local bike shop, Boulder had it all in my eyes.
After landing my first gig in the bike industry as a bicycle courier (instant street cred) with Denver-Boulder Couriers, I met owner Chris Grealish, who was a legend in the race promotion business. He had been putting on some of the best races for a couple of decades at this point—the Boulder Cup and Cross Vegas, just to name a few. He asked me to come out and pit for some of the pro riders on his cyclocross team at a local race, and not really knowing anyone in Boulder, I thought this would be a good way to get into the scene. At this point I had heard of cyclocross but had never seen it in person. I had only seen photos of guys covered in mud from head to toe. The day of the race I rode to the venue, and it was 45ish degrees and raining, so I knew I was off to a good start. The minute I rolled up I knew this was something different. I could hear the cowbells clanging and people shouting, which was way different than most of the mountain bike racing I had done (usually alone and in silence because I am so slow). The race was at a local water reservoir with a beach, and these guys were riding their skinny knobbies through the sand like it was nothing. I couldn’t believe the skill involved. Needless to say, I knew instantly this was where the fun was. I was a permanent cyclocross fan at that point.
I dove right in, getting a cx bike, doing some races. It didn’t matter that I was slow as hell; everyone was just out to have a good time anyway. It’s nice to see riders kill themselves for 45 minutes and then crack a beer rather than pounding protein shakes. Even though cyclocross has gone through some big changes over the last few years, it hasn’t grown enough (thankfully) to take away the laid back atmosphere that surrounds the sport.
In 2006, I stumbled on my first cyclocross dvd in my quest to drag out the season even longer by watching and reading anything I could find during the summer months. The standout of that dvd was the lanky 6’5” figure of Ryan Trebon. He and his sidekick Barry Wicks were taking turns tag-teaming the elite of U.S. cyclocross that year and winning a lot of races along the way. I was drawn to Trebon because he was a non-traditional cyclist. I am no wafer-thin roadie, and will likely never be, but Ryan made his size work for him by laying down power all day long. He would go on huge suicidal attacks every week, and although they wouldn’t always work, sometimes he would stay away and just crush everyone. This was a riding style I could get used to. I always had a hard time with road racing, because if you went out on a limb and made a move, 90% of the time you were dragging barnacles with you—people from whom you would normally ride away in any other cycling situation (where drafting wasn’t an issue). I am all for tactics in races, but there comes a time when you just want to leave people in your dust. Cyclocross gives riders this chance, and Ryan was their king in ’06.
Through the years I have followed Trebon’s career and enjoyed seeing the ups and downs that go along with a pro cyclist’s career. At some point along the way, I scored one of the ’06 USGP leader’s jerseys that Trebon won, and I’ve been wanting to get it signed and framed. I have dragged this jersey all over trying to get his signature on it. From the ’09 Cross Vegas to Gateway Cup to Mid Summer’s CX in Utah, I have had the jersey stuffed in my bag hoping to get the job done. Every time I tried, it seemed like Trebon would leave early, I would forget the jersey in the hotel, or something else stupid would keep it from happening.
Three years ago I found out about cyclocross worlds and knew that I would be there. Nothing would prevent me from going; I even let my boss know that I would be out of town a year ahead of time. When it was finally time to head to worlds, I grabbed the jersey that has been my traveling partner for six years, ready to make another attempt. Unfortunately, Trebon ended up pulling out of the race after taking a head-over-heels spill on the trickiest section of the course. Before that he was having an amazing race in front of a partisan crowd and was well on his way to being the highest-placed American.
By the time I made my way over to the expo center, Trebon had cleaned up and left or was doing his own thing in the trailers. Either way, I thought another shot had passed to get my jersey signed. Through the Twittersphere I learned about a foam party at a local club that was happening later that night and decided it would be the place to be after the race. On the walk down to the bar, who do I see walking 10 feet in front of me? Ryan Freaking Trebon in the flesh. Guess what I didn’t have on me at the time? That’s right, my jersey, tucked safely in my bag in the hotel.
Knowing it wasn’t going to happen yet again, I was sulking in the backseat of the most awesome van that ever existed the next morning, about to head back to COMO. Just when the driver was walking back to the car after grabbing one last coffee for the road, Ryan Trebon happened to walk past the van. I shouted, “That is Trebon!” and immediately started rifling through my bag trying to find the jersey while one of my traveling partners flagged Trebon down. I am sure when he heard me shout his name he started to speed up his gait, probably weary of all the crazed cyclocross fanboys he’d been dealing with all weekend. He kindly waited for me to grab a Sharpie, and fortunately, when he saw what jersey I wanted him to sign, he looked genuinely excited about it. He spent a few moments chatting with us and asked where we were headed. I told him what a great job he’d done and how stoked I was to see him race.
I still can’t believe that on the world’s biggest cyclocross stage the riders still make themselves so easily accessible to their fans. I still feel that no matter how many crappy drug stories are plastered all over the web and print media these days, cycling is the most beautiful, torturous sport, and that will never change. Seeing great athletes like Trebon killing it will keep me in this sport for another 15 years and likely another after that.
Andy Davis is a sales manager at Walt’s Bike Shop and a member of the Walt’s racing team. He has a degree in strategic communications from MU’s School of Journalism.