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Former bicycle racer turns hands to farming

Trent Klasna traveled the world as a professional cyclist
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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The dirt-encrusted tread of a farm tractor is his ride of choice these days. But not so many years ago, Cool farmer Trent Klasna was a force in the world of professional cycling. Klasna spent 16 years as a bicycle racer, 11 of them traveling the world on the pro circuit. After a somewhat troubled period as a teen, he took up racing in 1988 when he was 18. He loved it immediately. “I had a natural talent for it,” he said Wednesday. Within a year he had earned a spot at the Olympic-training center in Colorado Springs. Then in 1994, he joined his first professional team — Wheelsmith. Not long after that, he won his first professional championship in a Seattle race, which catapulted him into the spotlight and onto the Chevrolet team. As his career progressed, he rode for the Navigators and Saturn cycling teams, won several more championships and competed against many of the greats, including Lance Armstrong. “If you have talent, it makes it so easy,” Klasna said. “All you do is ride your bike — you eat, ride and sleep.” Klasna is well known in the world of racing. At Victory Velo in Downtown Auburn, storeowner Dan Tebbs said he watched Klasna race one year in the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey. “He had a good career,” Tebbs said Monday. “He’s a real down-to-earth guy and an amazing rider.” Klasna, now 40, said he formed his goals early on. “I said (when I started that) in four years, if I’m not making money, I’ll quit. I wanted to race for 16 years and then hang it up and not ride again,” he said. “Most of my goals came true. Some of the results were even better than I could have imagined.” If he has one regret, it is that he never competed at the Olympics. At the same time, he knew his strengths and for that reason, never aspired to ride in the Tour de France. “I’m good at stage races under 12 days,” he said. “After that, my body is not conducive to (longer rides).” One of his favorite events was the Tour de Costa Rica. “It was one of the races I entered in the early 1990s, representing the U.S. team,” he said. “As I got better, I was sponsored by the Costa Rica team to come down and do that race as a member of the Pizza Hut team. Just to finish it is an accomplishment, but I then won a stage and won a jersey.” Another favorite is the Sun Tour in Australia. From Melbourne, it’s a 12-day race around New South Wales. “I just loved the country and I loved the people,” he said. When he left racing in 2005, it was a tough transition at first. Klasna didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life. “I started taking welding classes and started learning farming,” he said. “I learned how to be out in the country and how to do things I’d never done before.” Three years earlier, in 2002, he and his wife, Tracy, had traveled around in a motor home looking for the perfect place to settle. “We wanted rivers. We wanted trails, a good place for gardening and no neighbors,” Klasna said. “We wanted to be able to leave our house and be on the trails for hiking and biking.” When they came across Cool, they knew they’d found the perfect spot. “Where I live, to me, is the best place in the world,” he said. Klasna’s interest in farming kicked into high gear last year. He planted an acre in vegetables and herbs, which he sold at a farm stand at his 49’er Farms, as well as to local restaurants and markets. “We had 5,000 plants altogether — 700 tomato plants, lots of peppers, eggplant, corn, basil cilantro,” he said. This year he plans to double the size of the garden. In a way, it has been like a return to his childhood. “My family had big farms in Nebraska and when I was a kid, that’s what I wanted to be,” he said. “Then when the opportunity came up to lease the acreage and farm close to this house, it was an ideal situation. I thought ‘I’m actually am going to be able to be a farmer, but on a small farm.” He is also a big supporter of buying and eating locally grown food. “People need to understand where their food comes from,” he said. “When I pick tomatoes out there, they’re picked fresh, not picked three weeks ago green. They’re fresh right from the plant. The difference in taste is phenomenal.” In his off time, he has a couple of tractors, builds a lot of fences and does metal work and other welding. One thing he doesn’t do is get on a racing bike. After putting in 23,000 miles a year on the bike, plus all the airplane travel, that was enough, he said. “At the beginning, the coolest thing is that I was getting to travel to all those places,” he said. “It was so cool and awesome. Riding my bike was so easy it was not a job.” But after awhile, the hassles of travel and all the time away from home began to weigh on him. “At the end I was so burned out,” Klasna said. There were also the health hazards. “I’ve broken a lot of bones — almost every bone,” he said. “I got hit by a car several times. Cycling is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. It’s not the racing; it’s the training. When you’re out there with the traffic, you’re going to get hit. But I absolutely loved riding my bike. That’s the truth.” His passion for cycling, dormant for the past few years, was rekindled a bit when he found out that the AmGen bike race will pass right by his home in May. Stage one on May 16 goes from Nevada City to Sacramento. “It think it’s awesome,” he said. “With this coming through, it has brought back memories. How great it is and how cool for Cool. I think the riders are going to love the terrain. It’s phenomenal for bike riding.” He hasn’t yet decided on the perfect vantagepoint to view the race, but he’s giving it some thought. “I’ll have some places that will be spots for me to watch it,” he said. Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com