How Dylan Rebello balances studying with riding
01 January 1970
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Hello and thank you for downloading once again our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. It’s great to have you listening to this chat about mountain biking and there are so many people, personalities and places that mountain biking lets us get to know. We’ve been to a lot of trails, we’ve been to a lot of trail parks, we’ve done a lot of events. But today we’re talking to an individual, a man who is making his way as a mountain biker, dare I say it, semi-professional?
He’s studying, but he’s also riding as much as he possibly can at a very high level. He’s been to the World Championships on the cross country circuit, but at the age of 21 he’s changing focus. His name is Dylan Rebello, we’re talking to him once more. Dylan joins me here in beautiful Stellenbosch which is his new base. Dylan, when did you move down here?
Dylan Rebello: I moved here about a year and a half ago, so 2014, mid-way through 2014 and never want to leave.
GDK: How much of that was motivated by the riding down here and obviously studying down here?
DR: 100% –
GDK: The riding?
DR: Yes, coming from Jo’burg, you don’t have nearly as nice riding as we have down here. Don’t get me wrong, there are nice trails in Jo’burg, but compared to Stellenbosch, you can’t compare.
GDK: What are you studying here?
DR: I’m doing a BBA in marketing, which is pretty much a general marketing degree, plus it’s got a lot of business orientated aspects to it, which is quite cool. Because then I can learn about all sorts of stuff that I wouldn’t normally have access to and maybe one day starting my own business and going on from there.
GDK: You live in a little flat in Stellenbosch and you obviously use these trails a lot, how much training are you getting through in a weekend?
How much riding are you doing?
DR: In base training, up to 22 hours a week of just riding. Then during season it varies, depending on what phase I’m in. If I’m in a strength phase or a speed phase, so it’ll vary. Normally about 14 hours, but the hours aren’t big, but they’re intense and rest is important. I’ll do a flipping hard ride and then I’ll rest and recover the next day, then another hard ride, as many times a week as I can.
GDK: It sounds very structured, do you have a coach?
DR: I do, I’m being coached by Mike Posthumus, from Science and sports, very cool guy. He knows what he’s doing. I’m telling you now, my riding has gone up ten-fold, I can’t even compare. He brings a new aspect to it, he brings in actual science.
He’s got his own programme, I don’t know what he uses, but he analyses my data. He sends me graphs and all sorts of stuff, telling me how I’m doing, what I’m doing, how well I’m doing, or he can tell me how bad I’m doing. He can keep me on the straight and narrow and very cool.
GDK: How many race days are you doing say in 2016?
DR: I don’t know, there’s quite a lot, there are so many stage races that’s already been happening. I haven’t checked, I think probably I’ve already done at least 50 days of racing. I’m on a bit of a break now until September when again, there’s going to be lots. I think there’s another 25 coming in between September and end of October.
Focusing on the longer stuff
GDK: As I illustrated early on, you did do a lot of cross country racing, obviously as a junior, which is where a lot of the junior racing is and you did a World Champs for South Africa in Maritzburg on the cross country circuit. But now the focus is quite different, isn’t it?
DR: Now the focus is more so on enjoying being on the bike and doing more stage races, which is what I’m enjoying. You can go to a stage race and you can ride and then you can come back and chill and chat to people and just enjoy that. Whereas I found a lot with the single day races and especially the cross countries, everyone does their race and just goes home.
I really enjoy the social aspect of it. I thought, well, I’m in mountain biking to do what I love, so I want to do the part of it that makes me feel happy. At the moment that’s stage racing. Maybe it changes, but at the moment, that’s what I’m doing.
GDK: As you said, there are enough of them going around in SA to keep you pretty busy.
DR: Yes, there’s at least one every weekend here, you actually have to pick your fights because otherwise you’re just going to wear yourself out. There are some really beautiful areas. People stick to things like Sani2c and that’s all great and all, but I mean there’s a whole country out there. I’m telling you, people are going stage racing crazy.
Who do you stage race with?
GDK: A lot of them are team events and obviously now more and more are solo, do you have a regular partner or do you freelance around?
DR: Well, so far I’ve been freelancing around. I’ve been doing quite a few races with Chris Volata from Mbuko. Things work out pretty well with him because we both get along very well. Got the same sense of humour, plus we ride at a very similar pace and tactics. So we take the downhills nice and fast, but we don’t take unnecessary risks.
Then on the climbs and stuff, we both climb and ride at the same sort of pace. Plus, he’s a little bit older than me, but he teaches me things that I wouldn’t have known before. He shows me ways of riding efficiently, that’s just helping my cycling big time.
GDK: You’ve got a great approach to it in terms of just doing it because you enjoy it. But obviously there’s a strong competitive element to your make-up isn’t there?
DR: Definitely, I’ve been competitive since the day I was born. I don’t like people being in front of me and beating me. But I don’t take it as a negative way, I take it as a challenge. I see if someone beats me and then think; okay, I’m going to work and I’m going to try and beat that person one day. Competitiveness is big with me.
Great support structure
GDK: It’s not a cheap sport as everyone knows, there’s entry fees and equipment and servicing and everything, coaching etc at that level. You’ve got a great support crew in your parents, Cindy and Wayne, but do you have other support outside of them, in terms of sponsors?
DR: Sponsorship-wise, I’m sponsored by Momsen Bikes, so they sort me out with bikes for racing for the year. Then Cadence Nutrition, cause nutrition gets very expensive. But they’ve got a great product that I believe in and they believe in me.
Otherwise I’ve also got POC for helmets, glasses and gloves, another great product. I know they’re quite pricey compared to the rest, but it’s a product that’s worth it. You can’t put a price on your head really, you want something that works and I know POC works.
GDK: This is a young man who as a 17/18-year-old had a very big crash at the cross country World Champs in Maritzburg, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to protection his head. You live in a flat with a flatmate. There are things like cooking meals and things that perhaps don’t go down too well with a 21-year-old, is that something you handle okay?
DR: Yes, I enjoy cooking. I might not be a Masterchef, but I like to experiment and find new ways of cooking things. Then also being a student, you don’t have a huge budget, so cheaper things that you can use that don’t actually taste so bad. Then it also helps my flatmate is a barrister, so we get lekker coffee in the mornings. He’s a very cool guy, his name is Wiehn and he works at the Cave Man café here in Stellies, we have a very good time.
GDK: It keeps you fuelled and filled up. Goals for you, you’ve done a World Champs in cross country, you’re 21, what are your mountain bike ambitions?
Would love to race and compete at Epic
DR: I’d like to develop myself as a rider first. I know you can say, I want to go overseas and I want to do this and that, but at the end of the day, it costs a lot of money. If you’re not strong over here, you won’t be strong over there. I first want to develop myself as a rider, the nearest goals would be, also things like Epic. That’s the biggest mountain bike race in the world at the moment.
GDK: You haven’t done it have you?
DR: Never, no.
GDK: Your mum and dad have.
DR: Yes, my dad has, but he hasn’t done the recent ones. He’s only done the ones from Knysna to Cape Town. He enjoys the journey, but I think he’s done four already.
GDK: Is that something you want to do?
DR: That’s something I definitely want to do one day. Next year, looking at doing it, get a bit of experience with it and see what the whole vibe is. In the future years to come, probably try and go for top spots and stuff like that.
GDK: Life of a full-time professional mountain biker in South Africa is not really what it is overseas. As you say, you’re studying now, you’re going to have to have something else, aren’t you, if you want to carry on riding for many years?
DR: Yes, unfortunately it is what it is. Our sport has been damaged a bit by people doping and that sort of stuff, but the sport is still going. Overseas, there is a lot of money, I’ve had the likes of Europeans staying at my place and including a Tour de France stage winner. Over there, there is a lot of money.
But don’t get me wrong, it is also still very tough because they’ve got a heck of a lot more people. Over here, we do have to, most of the pros have got their own day jobs and that sort of stuff. Which we work half-time and then cycle the rest of the time, but we get to fit it in.
GDK: You wouldn’t want it any other way would you?
DR: No, I could never see myself just being at a desk all day, I have to be outside. I have to be doing something during the day. Studying is hard enough, but it’s cycling that gets my mind off it and keeps me sane.
GDK: Good luck with those ambitions and long may you ride.
DR: Thank you.
GDK: That’s Dylan Rebello, a young man making his way as a mountain biker in South Africa at the age of 21. Look out for him in the years to come, he’s certainly got ambition and he’s got goals as well and a huge amount of talent. Thanks for downloading our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast once more, please do so again. Until then, ride safely and ride with a smile, it’s always pleasant to see people riding around with a smile, cheers.