By Gregor Brown in Varese
Already strong in the mountains, USA's Peter Stetina proved he is developing as an overall contender with his sixth place in yesterday's Under-23 World Championships time trial. Stetina, 21, posted a time of 43:00 to finish a mere 20 seconds out of medal contention.
"I did not know what to expect today. I never have been a time trial specialist until this year," said Stetina to Cyclingnews. The Boulder, Colorado, native finished the 33.55-kilometre test one minute and 24 seconds back from gold medallist, Italian Adriano Malori.
"We changed my position when I started working with Allen Lim. He believed in me. He told me I could get a podium back in February, but I just sort of laughed at him."
Stetina rides for the trade VMG/Felt during the year, which is a development team of top-flight Garmin Chipotle - H30. He benefits from Lim's input, the same team physiologist that riders like David Millar and David Zabriskie use.
The result is more impressive considering that Stetina is a lightweight climber. It shows that he has the potential to develop as an overall rider in stage races, maybe perhaps one day challenging for the Tour de France's maillot jaune.
The rise of Stetina to sixth in the Worlds was steady. He won the Under-23 national title in August. Riding for USA National Development team he also placed ninth in the espoirs' Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a tenth overall the prestigious Tour de l'Avenir after leading the race overall.
"Everyone has been real supportive. To come away with a top ten – I am happy. I would have been happy if I was third, but also if I was 15th," he continued.
Stetina shifts his focus to Friday's road race. He will form part of a strong team that also includes Tejay Van Garderen.
"Friday is the last race and then it is off-season time. We have a strong team for the road race. Tejay and I were both top ten in L'Avenir. He won a stage and I was in the yellow jersey until I cracked.
"I think we have one of the strongest teams. We were only one of two teams to finish with all six guys at the L'Avenir race. We can put guys in breaks, and Tejay and I can make the moves in the final."
Stetina plans to continue his development through 2009 and make the big step in 2010. "I was pro in 2007, and then I went with VMG/Felt this year. I think I will stay with them again this year to allow myself to develop. Then, I can always go and get bottles for the big boys in 2010."