Stetina’s Sierra Prospect brings pro and amateur cyclists together for good cause
World-class cyclists joined more than a hundred amateur riders last weekend to tackle 98 miles of pavement for the first annual Stetina’s Sierra Prospect, which benefitted local nonprofit, the High Fives Foundation.
Professional cyclist Peter Stetina hosted the race on Sunday, Sept. 24, along with events management and services company, Bike Monkeys, with proceeds from the weekend-long festivities furthering the High Fives Foundation’s mission of raising injury prevention awareness and providing resources to mountain action sports athletes that have suffered life-altering injuries.
“I was looking for a way to give back in a specific environment. I was looking at creating my own foundation for the event to support brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, and the families that go through that,” Stetina said.
“I started looking at the High Fives, and then I reached out to Marco (Sullivan), who put me in touch. It was the cycling community that came together and made that connection.”
Sullivan, of Tahoe City, is a four-time alpine ski racing Olympian, who also took part in the inaugural Stetina’s Sierra Prospect.
The race itself took more than 130 riders on a 98-mile route from Northstar California Resort, along Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore, down Highway 50 into Carson City, and then into Reno. From there the riders made their way up Mount Rose Highway before heading back to Brockway Summit, and the finish at Northstar. The Sierra Prospect also included a shorter 50-mile route.
The race brought a unique format to the Lake Tahoe area. Instead of the entire route being timed, the course was broken down into five timed segments, with riders being able to take their time outside of those segments to rest or regroup into larger packs. The “Road Rally” format also allowed for amateur cyclists to rub elbows with professionals like Stetina, Levi Leipheimer, Ted King, Laurens ten Dam, and more.
“It’s obviously a competition among some retired guys like Ted King and myself, recently retired Andrew Talansky, but it’s not a serious race,” said men’s winner Leipheimer. “This is more about the fact that Pete wants to give back to his community, and we’re all out here with all abilities and ages, and we’re all enjoying the same thing at the same time. Anytime you can do that, there’s a really special connection between everybody. It’s not an exclusive event, anyone can participate, and we need that in our world today.”
Like Stetina, Leipheimer has competed in the three Grand Tour races (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a Espana), with his best finish coming in 2008 at the Vuelta a Espana where he took second place.
“Pete’s a really good friend of mine and I’m really proud of him,” Leipheimer said. “It’s fun to see him get to the point in his life and in his career to where he wants to give back, and I think, for him, he’s really put himself out there for this event.”
Leipheimer completed the five stages with a time of 1 hour, 41 minutes, 51 seconds.
On the women’s side, Laura Spencer, of Marin County, Calif., brought home the inaugural first-place finish.
“It was not easy,” Spencer said. “It was really cold temperatures, (Sunday) morning, I wasn’t as excited to get out there.”
Spencer made the trip to Lake Tahoe with her fiancé, and like most riders, said the toughest part of the timed routes was the climb up Mount Rose, where the difficulty of the ascent was compounded by chilly weather.
“Mount Rose was crazy, but it’s kind of beautiful with all of the snow on top. It’s so stunning, but the altitude kind of hurts,” Spencer said.
“You just stare at the wheel in front of you, and try not to think about how much farther you have.”
The other timed segments included Brockway Summit at the beginning of the race, flat segments near Sand Harbor and Carson City, and a final climb back up Brockway Summit.
“I thought we were done with time segments after Mount Rose, so when I got to the last one, I was like, ‘What? We have to do one more?’” Spencer said. “That one hurt a lot, and I had a good day up until then, so I just tried not to ruin it on that segment.”
Spencer finished with a time of 2:04:18. She was also the fastest female on each of the five timed segments.
“I love the format of having just timed segments because I got to ride with my fiancé and stay with the front pack. It makes for a vibe that is community oriented … and for once I got the first prize,” Spencer said, teasing her fiancé, retired pro cyclist Ted King.
Spencer wouldn’t be the only rider who struggled with the final climb, as several others dubbed it the “nail in the coffin” upon reaching the finish line at Northstar.
“A lot of people saw Rose as the big obstacle of the day, and that’s what it was — our hashtag was conquer Mount Rose, and a lot of people had never attempted something like that,” Stetina said.
“And so they got up there, and people were over the moon, enjoying it and drinking coffee on top, but then I think a lot of people had mentally released at that point, and so we saw a bunch of zombies on Brockway trying to get home.”
The race capped off a weekend of activities, including charity dinners and rides for High Fives, and the release party of Prospectin’ Pete’s Pale Ale, created by Revision Brewing Company for the event. A dollar from every bottle of Prospectin’ Pete’s Pale Ale sold in stores will go toward High Fives, according to Stetina.
“It was a successful day, everyone was genuinely stoked,” said Stetina after the race. “There’re a lot of dead bodies out there — a lot of people had to go pretty deep and search within themselves. But that’s also what we set out and what we wanted from the event this weekend. People don’t get their money’s worth, and they don’t find what they are looking for if they come back fresh.”
The race also nearly doubled the number of female riders who have ridden from Reno up Mount Rose highway, according to Strava, a global social network for tracking the top times on courses.
“Only 17 women on Strava had ever completed Mount Rose from Reno to the top, so today we blew that out of the water,” Stetina said. “That just shows we accomplished something that was an exploration and an undertaking that a lot of people hadn’t done before.”
Stetina said he plans on bringing the Sierra Prospect back next year with hopes of improving on the inaugural weekend.
“This whole ride, and this whole week has been the cycling community and a projection of my career as a pro,” he said. “It’s because my friend in Santa Rosa, who knows a winemaker, who happens to be a rider, donated all the wine for the dinner. The beer was another friend who made a connection, and now my mug is on a beer for this event. It’s the cycling community that acts like a family that brought this all together.”