Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) had a tough finish to the 2018/19 cyclocross season when he suffered a broken collarbone before Louisville Nationals. Apparently bad things come in twos because Ortenblad suffered another bad break at the beginning of the summer.
That did not keep the California native from having a strong summer of riding. He won the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder and raced at the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race.
This fall, Ortenblad has returned to his natural habitat racing cyclocross. He started his season at Rochester Cyclocross and has moved to the cusp of breaking through into the top 10 after this weekend’s races at FayetteCross.
We caught up with Ortenblad a few weeks ago before World Cup Waterloo to check in on his recovery and return to form.
Cyclocross Magazine: You’re back from two broken collarbones how’s the season going so far?
Tobin Ortenblad: So far it’s pretty good. Definitely looking to pick up some more speed in the legs, which I’m sure will come with a couple more weeks. The Breck Epic was super good for fitness, but I don’t know if it was super productive for speed. Probably just play a little bit of catch up on that front right now, but I can tell it’s already coming back.
CXM: You had a nice ride on Friday that it seems like you were happy with. What was that feeling like? What were the sensations that were?
TO: Yeah, I mean for me it’s a good start. I was just kind of able to settle in more at the front for a little bit, which I hadn’t had that fool me yet. Just being able to go with the punches and have that snap out of the corners and stay with everyone felt pretty good.
I just got to make that happen with the second half of the race now, which is entirely just a little bit of catch up work. I think in a couple of weeks things will be right on track.
CXM: I know I’ve dealt with illness and it’s that, the fitness is there, but the high end. How are you working on that and trying to get that part back?
TO: We’re just finding a lot of super sharp short stuff. I mean that’s kind of it. The foundation is there, and I think that the base fitness is good. The collar bones, I’m not going to use them as an excuse. They’re not really much of a setback. They’re just maybe a week on the bike or so for that second one. So they weren’t that big of a deal. I was able to keep the foundation super solid and now we’re just going to dig, sharpen it up a bit.
CXM: Two years ago at the Trek CX cup you were throwing down with Van der Poel and Toon Aerts and crushing it and recently, you have not quite had the same results. How have you been dealing with the progress and the journey of getting back to that level?
TO: It doesn’t happen fast, but obviously staying positive and lining up every weekend and I think something we’ve done that’s started to help is not just make the small checklist and be happy with the small stuff right now. Like, Hey, let’s focus on a good start. Cool. Done. Now let’s focus on this, now let’s focus on that. And it’s all just coming back around. But trying not to go from A to Z; you’ve got to do everything in between.
CXM: And what are some other factors that have kind of contributed do you think to having to do that A to Z process over the last couple of years. It seems like it’s been a struggle at times.
TO: Yeah, definitely. I would be lying if I haven’t vocalized that last year. But I think the results of two years ago, I’m just trying not to use that as you’re only as good as you are right now. Right?
CXM: We know. Yeah.
TO: Exactly. Starting from where I was and just being happy with what you’re doing. So I’m confident it’ll come around, and it’s just maybe wasn’t there on last week, but maybe it’ll be later today.
CXM: Looking forward, what does success for you in the next couple months look like and what should we look for to say, all right, you’re back on track to where you want to be?
TO: Just keep the progression going and get the snap back beyond the wheels. Not fading off and anything dumb like that. It’d be nice to try not to make everything totally results based, but some podiums would be putting us on track for Nationals.
CXM: That’s a big goal for you this year then?
TO: Yeah, definitely.
CXM: I guess West Coast, right?
TO: I mean it’s driveable, there should be a lot of West coast support. It’s pretty nice.
CXM: Challenge tires, you switched this year, how have they been riding so far? How are you feeling about having those Limuses [for the mud] today?
TO: Yeah, I’m going to be pretty stoked on these today. They definitely hook up. I think they’re probably the best mud tire on the market as far bite.
CXM: You have said you’re a tire nerd, so we know that that carries some weight.
TO: Yeah, that means something from me for sure. So I’m pretty stoked on these today. I like being back on that, their kind of diamond standard file. Which didn’t quite have that last year. Those were good. But happy to be back on these. I rode these on Cal Giant like four or five years ago. The support’s incredible.
CXM: Well, cool. Thanks for your time. And look forward to seeing you out there today.
TO: Yeah, thank you. Appreciate it.