Peter Stetina Interview: New BMC Racing Team signing shining in Tour de San Luis
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Peter Stetina Interview: New BMC Racing Team signing shining in Tour de San Luis

by Shane Stokes at 7:46 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
American climber talks about the motivation of moving teams, season goals and his father’s recovery from a brain injury

The new season has just got underway but the young American climber Peter Stetina has already shown some very encouraging form. Will 2014 prove to be a breakthrough season for him?

Peter StetinaSometimes a change can really make a difference. Last year Nicolas Roche benefited from leaving a team he had been with for several years, with the former Ag2r La Mondiale rider’s transfer to Saxo Tinkoff seeing him win a stage and finish a career-best fifth overall in the Vuelta a España.

This year, Peter Stetina is also changing jerseys after many seasons with the same squad, although his tenure with Jonathan Vaughters’ TIAA – CREF/Slipstream/Garmin-Sharp outfit exceeds the time Roche spent with Ag2r La Mondiale.

The principle is the same, though. Use the experience you build up with your former team, tap into the motivation of moving to a new squad, and also draw on the input and advice of those who are part of the more recent setup.

In Stetina’s case, the input of Allan Peiper and others already seems to be paying off, with the 27 year old American finishing runner-up on his second day of racing in 2014, namely Tuesday’s stage two of the Tour de San Luis.

He broke clear on the final climb of Mirador de Potrero de los Funes, with only the Colombian Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) able to stay with him. Stetina was ultimately pipped to the line by the Colombian, who sat on him all the way prior to jumping past at the end, but it is clear that his form is very good, very early.

“I'm happy with the result,” he told VeloNation prior to the start of Wednesday’s third stage. “But it stings to be so close. I rode the whole climb in a headwind and he sat on. That's ok, that's racing, he chose his tactics and I chose mine, but it's definitely bittersweet.

“Maybe I could have repeatedly attacked him and maybe he would break, but he has just as much punch as I do. So I decided to ride to the line with the upcoming TT in mind.”

Stetina went into the stage regarding Darwin Atapuma as the protected rider and, despite the fact that he ended the day two places and three seconds ahead of him in GC, he believes that pecking order should remain.

“I still think Atapuma is our best bet. My goals lie later in the year and this was unexpected,” he said. “But there is no use in softpedaling any race, especially if I travelled all the way down here. So we'll give it our all. [Dominik] Nerz and [Larry] Warbasse were up there too, we actually won the team stage GC. So we have three cards to play.”

Peter StetinaStetina has been involved in the sport from a young age. That’s not surprising, given that his father Dale Stetina was a successful international rider and he grew up around bikes. He’s made steady progress, with strong results including two US Under 23 time trial titles in 2008 and 2009, the Mount Evans hillclimb in 2010, ninth overall and the most aggressive rider aware in the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge and third in the GP Miguel Indurain plus fourth overall in the Tour de Langkawi last year.

The results are encouraging and have helped to give him increased confidence for the future. “I had a really good spring,” he states in a second, earlier interview, conducted prior to the start of stage two. “I came out and did a good Langkawi, a good [GP Miguel] Indurain. Then I was climbing with Wiggo [Bradley Wiggins] and Scarpo [Michele Scarponi] and up in the top ten in Catalunya, a big WorldTour climbing race that the guys target.

“Dan [Martin] got the jersey then and I put everything towards defending that for him. It worked out, he won and it was great. Then my season started to fall apart a bit.

“I got really sick through the Giro. I took antibiotics two or three times, I crashed two or three times. I was in a pretty deep hole physically after that, and I kind of had to dig myself out. I put myself pretty far down there, but I started to emerge.”

Stetina hoped to end the season well but things were complicated by two serious events, one after the other. Firstly his father Dale crashed hard while out training and suffered a brain injury. After that the Boulder floods caused his parents’ home to be flooded, with the furnished basement being swamped by raw sewage.

It was, he says, not a good time.

“However US cycling was still good enough to give me that spot for the worlds,” he continued, talking about a silver lining in a big cloud. “I wanted to repay them and I was able to represent them in the race a little bit. I threw in an attack here and there, and was in the mix.

“I was really proud of that personally, because I did that off of almost no races. I just trained only. But if you train right, you don’t actually need races to get fit.”

Since then he’s taken his offseason break, got married, went on a honeymoon and got back to training in mid-November. It’s a little later than usual but, psyched by his move to a new squad, things have progressed well.

Going from blue Argyle to red and black:

Several weeks into the season, the obvious question is how is he finding the BMC Racing Team thus far? “It is good. I am happy,” he answered. “I am pretty confident that it was the right move, to take a step into the unknown and go to a new setup now. From what I have seen, the BMC management cares a lot about the riders. Allan Peiper and the management have done a really good job of getting individual with each one of us and giving us our own team goals and our own individual goals. The support is top-notch.

“I think it was good to change. A bit of the unknown gives you a little extra motivation. I think it is generally not that healthy in any industry to be with the same company for your entire career. It is good for the motivation for yourself to branch out and try and new things.

“At Garmin I feel like I might have been becoming a little complacent. I think the team had kind of decided what role I always filled there…I think it was the right time in my career to change.”

The BMC Racing team has several American riders on the squad, and with Stetina knowing them already, it has made his move a much easier one than might otherwise have been the case. Having familiar faces to speak to and train with is half the battle, in terms of what must be overcome during a move. He already feels settled in.

Peter Stetina“We are having fun, there is a good core group…we have this little American group going with Tejay [van Garderen] and Taylor [Phinney], myself and Brent [Bookwalter] and Larry [Warbasse],” he explained. “Even Darwin [Atapuma], we consider him an American as he is a south American. It’s all good, it’s working out.

“I’ve trained well, the weight is good for January and the form is encouraging.”

Stetina would be forgiven if he was a little behind on form, given what his family have gone through since August 31st. On that day his father Dale had a big accident, hitting the deck while trying to avoid crashing into a swerving car in Lefthand Canyon, Colorado.

He suffered what was described as ‘significant facial and ocular damage’ in an email sent to – and published by – veteran US rider Steve Tilford, and was left unconscious

“EMTs were on the scene rapidly, he received good care,” stated that email. “He was flown to Boulder Community Hospital in a Flight for Life helicopter. He is there now in ICU. The CatScan diagnosis revealed brain stem injuries. The neurosurgeon describes the injuries as very serious. Dale is in tough shape. The future of Dale’s recovery is not known at this time, the doctors have offered no predictions.”

Fortunately, Peter Stetina explains that things have been progressing well in the four and a half months since. “He is doing a lot better,” he said. “He is currently in Omaha, Nebraska, in a place called QLI. It is a transitional living university-style campus. It is a lot more open. When we visited him during Christmas we took him out to lunch on our own.

“From what I heard, even since then he has progressed more. He has got his normal routine in the morning…he is brushing his teeth without help, he is doing everything on his own, really. All the balance is there.

“We are now working on the mental aspect of things. That takes a while. But he is there and he is smart, he knows everything that he used to know. He was trading the stockmarket, that was his job…he was a trader. He knows all the rules, he can still look at a stock graph. He can pick out winners. But his logic still misfires sometimes.”

Describing his father as someone who has long been an over-achiever, he said that the elder Stetina has been frustrated by his condition, trying to do too much, too soon. “We have to try to get him to chill out about it. He wants to return to us and to provide for my mom and my family so badly,” he said. “We are trying to hold him back, as it interferes a little bit with his brain recovery. You need to rest, yet he is trying and working so hard.

“It is all good, we are only five months out. Considering they thought he would either be dead or be a vegetable, this is really like a miracle recovery. He will work again someday, somehow, we just need to figure out in what capacity that is.”

Targets: Tour of California success, and first Tour de France:

Peter StetinaKnowing that his father is making good progress, Stetina has been able to focus on his own job and being the best rider he can be. He is hoping for a good first year with the BMC Racing Team and said that his targets will be a blend of targeting good results for himself and also riding for van Garderen.

The latter will likely outweigh the former, but he’s happy with both roles.

“Next up I will be in Paris-Nice to try to help Tejay to do a good GC there. I am going to race a lot with Tejay this year. We are going to learn how to shake and bake in the races, and feel each other out before July.

“I will be at the Tour of California to target that for myself. That is a big goal personally. Then I just really want to build up for the Tour de France and hopefully make the team there. We can pull together a good run for the overall.”

He’s ridden three Grand Tours thus far in his career, each of them editions of the Giro d’Italia. His first in 2011 saw him take a fine 21st; he was then 27th in 2012 while riding for Ryder Hesjedal, then finished 52nd last year after being affected by crashes and health issues.

“I have never done the Tour,” he said, “so I am psyched up by that. We want to achieve a really high GC with Tejay…we all believe in him.

“We are buddies and we grew up racing each other in Colorado as juniors. We know how each other works a bit in the peloton. The Tour will be for Tejay. Thing is, if you really help him well enough, then you get noticed in the Tour too. So that is good.”

Before then, he has a chance to show his ability on the uphills and against the clock in Argentina. Even if he tips Atapuma as more likely to challenge for the overall, he will keep racing hard in the upcoming stages. A strong team rider for many years at Garmin-Sharp, there are indications that he could go on to bigger things after his mid-career switch to the BMC Racing Team.

It’s early days yet, of course. But the way he rode away from the field and beat all bar the rider who had been a limpet on his wheel bodes very well.


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