On a cool fall night, a group of neighbors and friends gathered in a Santa Cruz driveway to watch the broadcast from Cross Vegas. The event was projected onto a garage wall, and though Sven Nys, Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon sprang from the projector, the gathering was not there for those bastions of ’cross. Instead, cheers erupted as a tall rider in a California Giant Cycling Team (Cal Giant) kit hammered across the grass of the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex. The crowd cheered for their homegrown protégé Tobin Ortenblad, who, 500 miles away, raced at the pinnacle of North American cyclocross.
His placing didn’t matter—23rd—but every time there was a flash of the trademark Cal Giant red on screen, the crowd went wild. It’s quickly obvious that, despite his youth, Ortenblad has already developed a devoted West Coast following.
The 19-year-old Santa Cruz resident doesn’t look like the typical cyclist, and he’s always been a big kid. Before his cycling days, family and friends generously described him as “chubby,” and early on, his lumbering appearance on the bike even earned him the affectionate nickname “Tubbin.” Though he’s shed the baby fat, Ortenblad still appears a giant amongst the emaciated figures of the pro cycling world. However, his build blends power and resiliency to withstand the demands of Elite-level cyclocross racing.
2014 marks the third consecutive year Ortenblad qualified for the World Championships, his string of stellar results in 2013 landing him ankle-deep in the hallowed mud of Hoogerheide. Ortenblad joined his Cal Giant teammates Logan Owen, Yannick Eckmann and Cody Kaiser in almost total West Coast domination of the U23 U.S. team selection, along with East Coaster Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld racer Curtis White.