Stetina wins in return to mountain biking at Tahoe Trail Mountain Bike Race | SierraSun.com

Stetina wins in return to mountain biking at Tahoe Trail Mountain Bike Race

When professional road cyclist Peter Stetina entered the seventh annual, 100-kilometer Blueprint for Athletes Tahoe Trail Mountain Bike Race, he said he was in search of comfort food.

Not in the form of a sugary snack — but as someone who grew up mountain biking in Colorado, Stetina said he rarely gets a chance to compete in the discipline due to his road cycling commitments, and so the Tahoe Trail 100 provided the perfect opportunity to satisfy his appetite.

"It's going back to my roots," Stetina said. "Waking up and going up early into the mountains on a Saturday morning and doing a mountain bike race. It's my first time doing an event at Northstar and in Tahoe, especially on the trails — that was a really cool experience."

As a professional cyclist, Stetina has competed in the Tour de France twice, and the Giro d'Italia four times, including last May's race.

The 29-year-old's road cycling schedule leaves little time for entertaining ideas of mountain bike races, but with his summer schedule clear of events, Stetina returned to Lake Tahoe, a place he called his second home, to compete in the Tahoe Trail mountain bike race.

"I've been changing it up this year, just to get something fresh. That means I get summer break at home," he said.

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"After the Giro finish, I'm basically training on my own for two months before Colorado and Vuelta. That gets monotonous, so just to be able to come up and do a race just to break it up and get some of that intensity, there's that X-factor where you can push yourself harder in a race situation than you ever can training."

Stetina made his move early on during the Tahoe Trail 100's two 50-kilometer loops between Northstar California Resort and Tahoe City.

On the first major climb of the race he made the pass into first place, but was surprised when a little-known rider named Jamey Watson-Yanik out of Boise, Idaho, came flying by to overtake him.

"There was some guy that no one ever heard of that took off early on," Stetina said. "I took the lead on the big climb, but he blew by me on the downhill like a madman, and all of a sudden he had 4 minutes on me coming into the second lap. I was like, 'Alright I guess I'm racing for second.'"

Stetina maintained his pace over the final 50-kilometers, and with a few miles left in the race, he caught sight of first place on the course's final climb.

"I stayed steady and stayed within myself, and I passed him on the final climb," he said. "The race was a lot harder than I expected. I had to go all out to win. I was so happy to get back and do that. It gets my head right for all of the international races coming up later — perfect preparation."

Stetina finished the race with a time of 4 hours, 5 minutes and 23 seconds. He topped second-place Watson-Yanik by nearly 4 minutes, and fellow professional cyclist Ryan Petry, who finished third with a time of 4:15:10.

The top finishers of the race qualify for one of the nation's most prestigious marathon mountain bike races, the Leadville 100 MTB.

The race is held in the second Sunday in August, but by then Stetina said his focus will have turned back to the road, preparing to compete in the one Grand Tour race he has yet to ride in. The three Grand Tour races are the major European professional cycling races and include the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana.

"This year, with the team (Trek-Segafredo), I was talking, and I really want to finish the trilogy," Stetina said. "I want to do the Vuelta. I've also never done the double, which is another achievement — to do two Grand Tours in a season. They're three weeks long. That's epic."

To prepare for the road season Stetina said he spends much of his time training at Lake Tahoe.

"I do all my altitude training there," he said. "I'm in love with Tahoe. I'm 50/50 in my time between Santa Rosa and the lake. I'm convinced it's the world's best altitude training. So, I do all my altitude camps here on the lake."

Stetina will also be putting on his own road race on Sept. 24, with the Stetina's Sierra Prospect set to debut at Northstar California Resort.

The course will feature distances of 50 miles and 98 miles, with the latter taking riders from Northstar past Incline Village to Highway 50 where the cyclists will descend into Carson City. From there, the riders will make their way toward the outskirts of Reno, and onto Mount Rose Highway for a climb back up to the Lake. The route will end back at Northstar.

"It's really nice to be at Northstar for a race event and see how they run events because I was able to visualize this is how we want it to be," said Stetina of racing at Northstar. "We were doing a little bit of recon, if you will, for the Prospect ride."

The race will be scored in a "road rally" format, which mixes in competitive and non-competitive riding. The course will feature five timed segments, some on flat sections, and some on hills. Outside of those segments riders can take their time, enjoy the scenery or rest at one of the course's aid stations.

Cost to register for either race is $170, which will benefit the High Fives Foundation.

For more information visit sierraprospect.com.