Trevor O’Donnell Interview Part 1

trevor o'donnell

Trevor O’Donnell Interview: Belgium and Worlds

The other day, I had the opportunity to sit down with local racer Trevor O’Donnell to talk about his experience with Cycling Canada’s Christmas Cross Program, racing the Cyclocross World Championships, and his plans for 2016.

In Part 1 of the Trevor O’Donnell interview, we talk mud, broken shifters, and racing against the best in the world.

The Wannabe Racer: You were just in Belgium, can you run us through what exactly the program was?

Trevor O’Donnell: Cycling Canada has never done a project over the Kerstperiod, it’s called. In 9 days there were 6 races we did including the Zolder World Cup which was the Worlds course a month before. Super Prestige Diegem, C1, C2, Bpost Bank Trofee, and I don’t remember the last one.

It was good to get over there and get the experience. It was the first time they have ever done sort of thing like that. It was really good getting the exposure, kind of getting our butts kicked and getting used to it and racing with them.

The main goal was to learn as much as I could and just get fit through it. We kind of had two goals for each race, whether it be get a good start, get up there, or say, try to hop the barriers or get a clean bike swap, just things like that. Just a big learning experience for when the racing really counted at Worlds and Hoogerheide.

Course Preview day at Zolder.

A photo posted by Canadian National CX Team (@cyclocrosscanada) on

WR: Obviously the racing over there was a lot different. What was the biggest difference you noticed?

TO: It was hard coming from here in the end of December, being fit but not having the racing edge. So to get over there, the speed they had was incredible. So when you’re starting back row and the leaders are all basically elites, they are all pros, the pace was definitely higher.

My issue was there is an 80 percent rule. You get pulled if you weren’t that far back or within 80 percent. The only race I didn’t get pulled was Worlds, I was pretty happy with that. But some of the races were C1, kinda below World Cup, it’s what they have in the States, so we raced with the elites. We raced with Sven (Nys). We raced with Tom (Meeusen), Tim Merlier. All the pros and they were doing 5 minute laps. So in order to last, an hour is incredible. It’s so hard.

U23s on course. Best starts of the trip thus far, they’re getting much more comfortable mixing it up with the competition.

A photo posted by Canadian National CX Team (@cyclocrosscanada) on

WR: You’re a first year Under 23?

TO: No, for cross that was my second year since it transfers over and this year will be my second year road.

WR: So racing these pros who have been doing it since they could walk has to be way different than an Under 23 field?

TO: Most of the guys in our field too, similar age, but they’ve just been doing it since being in junior competing to win. And in cadet they even have races. It’s a huge challenge but I really liked it. I didn’t get discouraged.

WR: What about the mud?

TO: Ya, that was a big challenge too. The Zolder course didn’t really show it. There was mud there but no where near some of the other races. We did the Bpost Sven Nys race and it was just all mud. If you didn’t have Rhinos, Limus, if you didn’t have the mud tires it would just be so hard. Even with the tires, that challenge. It’s not just power, it’s using your core trying to make that back wheel stick. So the mud was just very challenging over there. It really takes skill to try and get used to it. Nothing compared to here.

WR: What’s the biggest thing you are taking away from the experience?

TO: I’d have to say the races, the amount of people, the amount of skill level around you, you’re never going to find around here. Whether you are doing 9 minute lap times, there’s someone doing 8:55 lap times or 9:05 laps times. There’s just so many people around you, the competition, it never ends. Unless you are on the front but still the people around you, it’s just ridiculous.

Not like here in O-Cups, where you have one or two guys that are going to be around you the whole time. Just packs of 8, 9, just people everywhere, just overwhelming. It’s almost like crit racing but single file, strung out the entire time.

It’s a big thing I took away, the skill level and fitness that you need. I know what I have to be for next year.

WR: How was living in the Canada house? Did living with more experienced riders rub off on you in anyways?

TO: Ya, sort of. It was really strict. It was good. If the ride left at 10, it left at 10. The one day we were pre-riding, we actually left an elite behind cause this was when we were leaving and he was aware but just not. We absolutely have to be in the van 10 minutes ago.

It was really good. It was always on time for the races. Having a warm up plan every time, so get up at this time, have your breakfast and just keeping your schedule, make sure you have lots of time cause getting to the start with 10 minutes.

We did learn a lot just on like people skills. Like what to cook, just more than at home. Just learning everyone’s recipes and how they essentially do it cause they’ve been doing it for 5 years, 10 years. It was a big learning experience too in that sense.

Mexican for dinner this evening, compliments of @maggiecoleslyster, @gmanhomes99 and @odonnell396

A photo posted by Canadian National CX Team (@cyclocrosscanada) on

WR: Overall, how do you rate your World Championship race?

TO: I was pretty happy, top 50. Just a few mistakes here and there. It’s such a gruelling sport. I have to say that’s probably one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. I ended up being out there for 58 minutes, so being 6, 7 minutes back from the leaders is probably normal for me.

The race went good. I had a good start, I was a little bit back. Isaac (Niles) was the other U23. Got caught behind a crash, managed to stay upright, unclipped. Just lots of incidents but overall it went pretty good, I have to say.

The course was really challenging, they didn’t even have barriers. It’s just all manmade. Only a few courses had barriers. That course didn’t really show the gradient on TV, there’s just a lot of sections where, instead of barriers, okay, you need to peddle and get over this, right, instead of running.

Overall, World’s course was really challenging. I don’t know if you saw the Zolder, but they added that over pass at the top so it just added another hill to do, right. And just more fitness to do it. Overall, it was really challenging. It’s kinda leaving me like I want to race more of it but I have to wait till next year. Definitely when you get on the course, definitely helped from racing before.

WR: With Cross Vegas and Jingle Cross being World Cups in 2016, will you be putting them on your calendar?

TO: I’m not sure if there is a U23 category but if there is an Elite category I presume they’ll take 8 cause it’s in the States. They took 8 to Vegas. I had a spot last year to go but I opted out of that but definitely if I can get there this year it’s definitely on the calendar. And they’re, I believe, September and October, I think they’re earlier in the season so definitely them being that close I have to take advantage of that for sure.

WR: Which race was it that you smashed up your shifter?

TO: Oh, the shifter. That was at the Sven Nys race. I have to say it was all mud. That was technically a C1 race, so UCI 1. Good start, probably top 15 up there. It was kind of a shoot, it was maybe 4 meters wide, no it had to be 6 or 7, it was just a shoot down. And the ruts had to be 3, 6 inches deep and I just caught a bad rut, kinda clipped into the fence and once you’re in it you can’t get out. So imagine all the people going down and I just got shoved a bit, clipped a fence.

Sven actually did the same in his race, so I don’t feel too bad but I think his shifters were okay.

I kinda fell on my back, everything is full of mud so it’s kinda hard to know. It wasn’t working that well, I pitted a few times. It was actually the recovery ride the next day, the mechanics had just washed it and I was kind of saying, Regan, one of the mechanics was like “ya, this shifter is not really doing anything.” And 10 minutes later on Instagram, I see the post and was like “ya, that makes sense.”

Luckily they had the parts, they dug it out so I got a new shifter out of it.


In Part 2 of the Trevor O’Donnell interview, we talk about his plans for 2016 and some of his goals for the future.