What do you anticipate for your first season at the ProTour level?
The first year is really all about development and experience. The smart people who run the team will decide what racing program is best for me. It's all about just doing what I'm told and following the path that's laid out before me. If I'm the guy with the best chance to do well, I'll embrace the team-leader role. If not, I'll be happy to go fetch water bottles.
Any words of wisdom for young cyclists?
Race smart and use good tactics. At the end of the day you have to be one of the strongest people, but you also have to be smart in how you prepare for and compete in a race.
Just 3 miles from the finish of last year's national pro time-trial championship, Peter Stetina, 23, was on track to cap his rookie season with a podium spot. Then, trying to take a 90-degree turn in his aerobars at 30 mph, the Garmin-Transitions rookie overshot the corner and hit the curb dead-on.
Chann McRae, who was Stetina's team director for the TT and helped pull the rider off the pavement that day, says that remembering how young Stetina is helps take the sting out of that disappointment. "Sure it was nationals," says McRae, "but hopefully Peter will be riding a Grand Tour next year."
For Stetina, who enjoyed a dominating stint in the under-23 ranks, the first year at the ProTour level was filled with such struggle and promise. He describes the year as one in which each successive race was the hardest he'd ever done.
Even so, says McRae, Stetina gained respect by burying himself at the front of races to put more experienced teammates in position to win. And he still managed to wear the best young rider jersey at the Tour of California and spend time in the king of the mountains jersey at the Volta a Catalunya.
Stetina's father, Dale, a former Olympic cyclist, recalls that his son began his cycling life the same way he ended his time trial: On his first ride sans training wheels, Stetina hit the curb—twice. "I'm surprised he still became a bike racer," jokes Dale, who then seriously says that, "Motivation has never been a problem with Peter. Whenever he doesn't get something he wants, he just tries that much harder."
That was evident near the end of 2010. Just recovered from the potentially season-ending injuries he'd suffered at nationals, Stetina rode strong when a vicious, rain-soaked Tour of Lombardy put many veterans off their bikes, dropping out only because he'd waited for his team leader, who had crashed.
So your debut year at the ProTour was pretty eye-opening?
I really got beat up in the spring, not in terms of crashing—just getting my ass handed to me. During the Tour de France, though, when I got a bit of a break and came home to the U.S., I really recovered. I hit a new level after that. I'm still learning something every race, but now, when the best guys attack, it doesn't seem so, so ungodly fast.
Any advice for aspiring bike racers?
Have fun. I still played soccer until I was 17. You don't have to be full-bore from 13 years old. You can get into trouble if you just try to be a one-trick pony. There's so much support out there, you don't have to have former pro parents like Taylor Phinney or me. For example, in Colorado, a high school mountain bike league just started up.
So you weren't pushed by your dad to pursue cycling and only cycling?
Not at all. My dad always wanted to take me on mountain bike rides as a kid but I was never interested. When I was 14, a friend on my soccer team was doing the 24 Hours of Moab. I started riding with him and decided I liked it. The 24 Hours of Moab was my first race, and that got me hooked.