Dylan Rebello – the early years
01 January 1970
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
Well, hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. Thanks for downloading and as you know, we talk all matters mountain biking. Today we’re going to be finding out what makes a young pro. Pro-am rider tick and what got him fired up. Where he is in this world of mountain biking and his name is Dylan Rebello. He’s a young man, Dylan, how old are you and how are you?
Dylan Rebello: I’m good thanks Gerald. I’ve just turned 21, so I’m still new, early in the sport, looking up at all the big dogs still.
GDK: You say early in the sport and it sounds strange. Because I’ve seen you around for so many years riding the juniors, riding the sub-juniors and then into the u23’s which is where you are now, cross country and so on. But let’s go right back to when you first saw a mountain bike and how it bit you?
DR: Well, my dad and my mom, they were big runners and my dad sort of finished the Epic one year. He said he wants to do that, so that was the first Epic that he saw, second Epic he decided, no, he’s doing that. So he got an entry, a wild card entry and then he just started doing the races and stuff.
Then my mom and I would tag along. We though hold on, this looks pretty cool, let’s start. Then it started with the fun rides and that sort of stuff. Then just worked up from there, started doing the half marathons and full marathons, now a couple of ultra’s and stuff.
Riding half marathons at the age of 11
GDK: That would have put you at around 9/10 at that age, is that right?
DR: Ja, I actually was the last group of people of, of youngsters at least that was able to do the half marathons at 11. So I started doing the half marathons at a very young age, but I feel that developed me quite nicely.
GDK: That’s an interesting thought because people now, you can’t do them at that age. You’re still riding the kids races or smaller races. Do you think that we may be a little bit over-cautious in that sense?
DR: I don’t know because there’s always many sides to look at it. I found it was far back then, but that developed a mental strength. Almost where when you get tired, you can just dig in there and carry on going. Whereas nowadays, I think you have to be 16 to be able to do the half marathons. It’s developing speed, which is good, but you also need that mental toughness.
GDK: You started taking it quite seriously, as you’ve illustrated briefly, you moved up into all the different distances. But at what age did it become, when did your mom and dad think, hang on, we’ve got someone with a bit of talent here?
DR: Well, I did well as a junior and then youth I did some other sports. Then coming back as a junior, then I started to do better and better and then I always just had fun. I’d go and train and go to gym with my dad and that sort of stuff. So I was training well, but I wasn’t super over the top into it.
A big family effort
GDK: Your dad is obviously a big motivational factor in your life, isn’t he?
DR: Definitely, it’s a family thing that we do, it’s a family get up. My dad looks after my bike, looks after me, he’s always taking me to all the races and supporting me and stuff. My mom on the other side is doing all the nutritional work for me, keeping me happy and healthy. So it’s a big family effort, you can’t do it by yourself, plus, they’re both big time into mountain biking. My folks, they ride about 400km a week just for the fun of it.
GDK: That’s amazing. Let’s go back to your schooling, as you took it more and more seriously, did it mean you focused only on mountain biking or were you able to do other sports at school?
DR: At school I was always big into tennis, unfortunately I had to stop that at Grade 10. But then I still played squash on the side, because that you can play at night. I’d play squash just for a bit of cross training. Then when things started to get more serious, then I had to stop the other sports. But you’re doing it for the passion, I just love mountain biking.
GDK: Did you finish your schooling or did you decide to focus on mountain biking early on?
DR: I definitely finished my schooling, mountain biking is Plan B. If you don’t have a good education, then what happens if one day you break your leg, gee, you’re going backwards.
GDK: In those days, you talked about doing those half marathons, which obviously laid the seed for where you are now, which we’ll get to another time. but cross country was still what the kids were doing, in terms of skills and the technical aspect of it, where did you gain that strength?
DR: The technical aspect I had, oddly enough, some of my dad’s friends who were quite technically, I’d say gifted. Then I’d just go on long rides with them and we’d go into places, because at this time I used to live in Jo’burg. So we used to go to 4×4 parks and that sort of stuff. Then we’d look for the most gnarly thing and we’d decide, okay, let’s have a competition to see who can ride down that.
That’s sort of where I got that from. Otherwise, the school series, relatively isn’t over technical, but it develops a sense of fun and enjoyment for the sport and single track which then you can develop further and get people to ride more technical stuff. Then start pushing themselves, which is cool.
GDK: I suppose it also develops that competitive side of it as well. While you’re at school, it’s not a traditional sport at school, so you have that competitive element as well.
DR: Ja, school series is the most fun you can ever have. I mean you go to school and no one knows what cycling is. You go to the school series races, however and there’s like a thousand students just cycling. Let alone they’ve brought their whole family, their tannies, their sisters, all that sort of stuff and they shout for you.
No matter where you come, they’re screaming and they’re ‘ganning mal’ and it uplifts you so much. You just want to give it your all and that’s why I can understand that rugby is so big. If you’ve got that sort of support for rugby, if we had that for cycling all the time, it would be a much different story.
World Champs at 18
GDK: Talk about riding overseas. Did you get a chance to do that whilst you were still a young man and at school?
DR: As a junior I didn’t because I thought school is more important, I can always go overseas at a later age, after school and that sort of stuff. So that’s pretty much what I did. I competed in a World Champs and stuff, I went around the country a lot, which is cool, but not overseas.
GDK: Let’s go to that World Champs in 2013, so you would have been 18?
DR: Yes, 18.
GDK: Tell us about that experience.
DR: That was something special. That’s the first time I’d ever raced against guys from overseas, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was a week of riding the course, getting to know it and stuff and it was a flipping technical course. Some of the other riders even thought they went over the top with some of the technical stuff.
The one day in training I rode down an obstacle called The Corkscrew, no, sorry, it was Shockers Playground first, and I fell on my face there. Paul Cordez picked me up and put me on the side and just sat me down for a while. Then I thought okay, I’m just going to ride back and go and sit under the tent and stuff. I got to The Corkscrew and I fell on my face again in front of the medics and then they decided no, you must go to hospital.
I went to the hospital and spent the rest of the day in the ward and brain scans and that sort of stuff. Then I decided no, I’m fine, well they decided I’m fine. Then I went training and carried on, did the race, but I had a broken rib and it was very sore. Every time I put any sort of effort in and started to breathe heavy.
So I went very slowly my first lap of the race, but then picked up the pace and that sort of stuff. Got big motivation from all my support, from Brian Strauss, from my parents, ja, I just kept on going and managed my way to halfway in the field, so I was happy about that.
GDK: That’s an incredible story. I do recall that fall and it was a serious fall, you looked, ja, didn’t look good and off you went to hospital. Many thought, oh, that’s your weekend over. So it took a big effort, mentally, to get back on the bike for the race. What was your mind-set, were you scared?
DR: I wasn’t scared because now I thought well, you know what, World Champs, you don’t get this opportunity often, and it’s in South Africa. So no matter how I’m feeling, I’m just going to go out there and do my best. My best is my best and there’s nothing else I can do about it. All I can give is 100%, really.
GDK: Amazing. You’re not doing much cross country now, do you think that played a role?
DR: Not really, I just found I was getting very stressed out going to the cross country races. You only start at 2:00 in the afternoon, you’ve got the whole morning, you think about the race and stress and stress. The cross country race can all be over at the start and you can’t do anything about it.
The stress started to get to me last year and I just thought, you know what, I want to take a bit of time and I want to enjoy being on the bike. I want to enjoy doing other stuff and see what else is out there, not just cross country.
GDK: Dylan Rebello, a 21-year-old young man, making his way on the mountain bike and that’s, I suppose, the initial part of a story that maybe will carry on for many years to come and Dylan will develop into one of our finest mountain bikers in the years to come. He certainly had a fantastic grounding. I hope you’ve enjoyed that here on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, download again. We’ll bring you more wonderful stories from this great sport, cheers until then.