Peter Stetina hasn’t ridden the Tour of California since back in 2010 but the three year absence really doesn’t change much.
What has changed significantly is Stetina himself.
Back then he was a Garmin support rider for Dave Zabriskie’s bid to win the overall but this year he has a fundamentally new role: GC captain.
That’s a new one for Stetina and it also qualifies as unknown territory. He’s 26 and while the Tour of California isn’t a grand tour, it’s a high profile race and BMC has high expectations. It’s a role switch to a whole new set of pressures, stress and autograph obligations.
Last year’s winner Tejay van Garderen also went through that transition and like most, he admitted it was not easy to go from taking orders to giving them. There’s a confidence required to command and deploy older and more experienced riders.
Van Garderen grew into the captain role last season as evidenced by his breakthrough GC wins in California and the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. Nobody is claiming that it will be simple for Stetina to step in and fill van Garderen’s cleats.
The BMC squad for California is a potent mix with time trial master Taylor Phinney, stage hunters like classics guy Greg Van Avermaet, occasional sprinter and hard-man Thor Hushovd and of course Stetina himself for the overall. So the the pressure is largely off Stetina’s shoulder and he’s been given free reign to learn on the job.
Stetina has a clear understanding of that learning opportunity here in California. “I have never actually been in a protected role like this, so this will be a new opportunity that I have been chomping at the bit for and one that I am excited for,” said Stetina. “Stepping into a leadership role is a completely different responsibility. There is an added pressure. I hope I can thrive under it and I am excited to take it head-on.”
We’re curious to see how Stetina fares in the captain’s role. He made more than a few veiled remarks that he was getting pigeon-holed at Garmin and would perhaps never get his own shot. By accounts, he’s stepped up his training and his game and in terms of team fit, he’s with his good buddy Phinney at BMC.
We also can’t help but think that Stetina has also been changed by the crash and traumatic brain injury his father suffered in late 2013. Like Phinney and his father Davis with Parkinson’s disease, there’s some inevitable and unforgettable life lessons.
We suspect that he’s been humbled and inspired by his father’s long recovery and taken stock of his own life, too. There ain’t that many years in a pro bike racer career and perhaps that has also brought an intensified commitment to reaching the next level. There, so much for armchair psychology.
We look forward to watching Stetina tackle both the 2014 Tour of California and his new role as captain. One way or another, it will be a revelation