For every Pauline Ferrand-Prevot who makes coming back from an injury look like a snap, there are 10 athletes who have to put their heads down and celebrate recovery one small victory at a time.
Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) is one of those athletes facing the tough road back from injury and health issues.
After the best year of his career in 2017/18 where he finished second at Pan-Ams in Louisville and 4th at Reno Nationals, Ortenblad did not have the same success in 2018. His season was capped with a broken collarbone that kept him from racing Louisville Nationals. A second collarbone break earlier this summer set him back again.
Despite the challenges he has faced, Ortenblad has persevered and continued to race a full UCI calendar in 2019. We caught up with him shortly before World Cup Waterloo, where he talked about focusing on little parts of each race as he worked to build fitness and get his confidence back.
Since our check-in at Trek, Ortenblad has started to get results that reflect his return to fitness. He finished just outside the top 10 at FayetteCross and then broke into the top 10 on Day 2 of the US Open of Cyclocross in Boulder. Ortenblad then got his best result of the season with a seventh-place finish at the Kings CX UCI C1 last Saturday.
Top 10s turned to podium finishes over the weekend at the Really Rad Festival of Cyclocross as the man they call McTubbbin scored a silver on Saturday and a bronze on Sunday. Although he admitted names such as Werner, Hyde, Hecht and Haidet were not there, a podium finish is a podium finish.
“It’s going to be harder at Nationals than it was this weekend,” Ortenblad said. “It was nice to kind of get some confidence back and some good feelings.”
A West Coaster through and through, Ortenblad has still grown a soft spot for New England cyclocross, and he will be staying in Boston this week before racing the Northampton Invitational this coming weekend.
Cyclocross Magazine contributor Taylor Jones sat down to chat with Ortenblad after his Really Rad third-place finish on Sunday. You can read what he had to say in the transcript below.
Interview: Tobin Ortenblad, 2019 Really Rad Festival of Cyclocross
Cyclocross Magazine: How was the racing this weekend? The first weekend in New England for you this year?
Tobin Ortenblad: Yep, it was my first weekend in New England. It’s always nice to be out here. The scene is super good out here, as much as us West Coasters want to talk shit. It was nice to come out and get some results in and more speed in the legs. It feels like my fitness is finally starting to catch up.
CXM: So for you, was the objective to come out here and build fitness or was it also trying to get points for Nationals?
TO: Kind of everything. I knew it would be more racing at the front based on all the fast guys not being here. Second or third place are podium results, but I’m not kidding myself. It’s going to be harder at Nationals than it was this weekend. It was nice to kind of get some confidence back and some good feelings.
CXM: Coming back and racing, a course like this seems to be more of a fitness course than a super technical course, that seemed to play to your strengths this weekend.
TO: It was pretty good. If this was a little muddy it would have been a bit more fun, and I think it would have kept Curtis [White] in check a little more.
CXM: When Curtis decided to kind of check out and do his own thing…
TO: He doesn’t really attack. He just kind of holds his speed and cracks us. He’s so fit right now.
CXM: At that point, do you just kind of say he’s going to do what he’s going to do and race the guys with you? Yesterday and today that was Sam Noel and Lane Maher?
TO: Yesterday I felt like it was Sam [Noel] who went and Lane [Maher] was cracking. But we were still trying to catch Curtis for a while. Today, Curtis just kind of cracked the whip, and we all decided no one was going to try to go with Curtis because we would just get cracked anyway. Everyone started looking around a lot sooner and being a little more tactical.
CXM: What were the tactics in that group? Were you content to kind of sit on?
TO: I didn’t mind sitting on. I also could see there were a decent number of people who could catch us from behind. That didn’t concern me too much because I felt we were probably a lot fitter than those guys.
CXM: What would you have done with Ben Frederick if he caught you on a singlespeed?
TO: Yeah, you come here to get in a good headspace, and then that happens. I dunno.
CXM: What’s your game plan? You’re going out to Northampton next weekend?
TO: Yeah, Northampton then go home and race a local race. I’m going to Singlespeed World Championships. Then I’ll do a good training block through Thanksgiving, go to Dallas and then get ready for the trip to Nationals.
CXM: Do you have objectives for Nationals?
TO: Top 5, for sure.
CXM: That would be a successful weekend for you?
TO: I think at the beginning of the season if you would have asked me that, I don’t know if I would have said that, just based on how I was feeling. I think I’m trending upward on the fitness though. That’s good.
CXM: Well cool man. Thanks for catching up.
TO: Sounds good.