After three months spent racing all over the Midwest and East Coast, our hometown cyclocross ripper Tobin “McTubbin” Ortenblad returned to California two weekends ago to take back-to-back UCI wins at CXLA. Tobin turned in two dominant performances in the double-header weekend with a wire-to-wire victory in Saturday’s night race and an impressive solo effort on Sunday. The wins capped a head-turning first half of the season in which Tobin established himself as one of the top riders in the US.
This year’s edition of CXLA featured the unlikely cyclocross venue of March Field Park in LA’s Inland Empire and provided a stark contrast to the East Coast conditions racers have grown used to. Rather than mud and rain, racers at CXLA arrived to sunny mid-seventies temperatures and choking dust that was inches deep in many places around the course. During the course pre-ride multiple pileups in dusty corners served notice that many riders would have to adjust their bike handling skills to suit the fast, loose conditions.
The name of the game for Saturday night’s race was low-visibility. Despite floodlights placed around the course, the darkness and tire-flung-dust made clear line choice a luxury that not many in the forty-rider field could afford. Tobin, however, never had to deal with the dust. He managed to take the holeshot after a brief scare from a photographer’s strobe flash and avoided the dusty maelstrom behind. From the first corner on he didn’t relinquish the head of the race.
“The course was a bit spread out, which left a couple of corners in the dark.” Tobin said, “but coming into the dark areas I just trusted my pre-ride and sent it.”
After a brief challenge by Donnelly Cycling’s Jamey Driscoll around the midpoint of the race Santa Cruz’s ace ‘crosser distanced the field and built a gap of over twenty seconds by the time he crossed the line.
A quick turnaround brought the racers back to the venue to race on a slightly different course the next day. With a three o’clock start visibility didn’t come at quite the same premium as the night before, but a full day of racing had turned the already-loose course into a dust bowl. A slightly less frenetic start spit Tobin out in fourth place with a select group of favorites at the end of lap one. He slowly worked his way up, and by the midpoint of the race he was alone at the front. As the sun was setting he rolled his Stigmata across the line with a clean set of wheels and a big gap over second place.
“After Saturday it took a few laps for my legs to open up, but once they came around I was able to bridge up to the front and control the race from there.” Tobin explained following the finish.
These two wins come just past the midpoint of a career season for McTubbin. In three months of traveling the country with his coach/mechanic, Chris McGovern, this one-man-band has already won eight races including two UCI C1 events and five UCI C2’s against the best trade teams the US has to offer. He finished third overall in the US CUP-CX series after leading for four races and spent a month as the number one ranked rider in the US.
The success came on the heels of a bold early-season strategy concocted by Tobin and McGovern to race as much as possible during a busy part of the calendar. In September Tobin raced three days in a row at the Jingle Cross World Cup in Iowa, competing in the C1, C2, and World Cup races on consecutive days. The next week at the Waterloo World Cup he did the same thing. At a time where many of the world’s best were picking and choosing their race days to save their best performances for the World Cups, McGovern and Ortenblad were building fitness and confidence by maximizing the number of race days against top-level competition. The strategy paid dividends and led to a string of big wins
“The confidence definitely grew from week to week after the World Cups,” Tobin said mid-way through his impressive early season streak. “Once you win on Saturday you’re pretty confident for Sunday’s race and it just goes from there.”
Following his dominance at CXLA Tobin will shift his attention towards National Championships in Reno, Nevada in January and a trip to Europe for World Championships in February. His current World Ranking of 18th would grant him a second row start at World Championships and an opportunity to go shoulder to shoulder with the best riders in the world.