Peter Stetina was the first Garmin-Cervélo rider to finish stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia on the steep slopes of Monte Zoncolan, after being told to ride his own race by team leader Christophe Le Mevel.
The Frenchman struggled on the Grossglockner on Friday and finished 19th at 4:00 at the finish on Monte Zoncolan. Stetina was 15th at 3:29 after carefully pacing his effort on the 11.9% gradient of the Zoncolan.
"We were working for Christophe all day but I think he's suffering from that big effort he made earlier in the week (on stage 11 to Castelfidardo) when he tried to take the pink jersey," Stetina explained to Cyclingnews before climbing aboard the warm team bus ten kilometres down other side of the climb.
"I was staying with him on the lower part of the Zoncolan but then he told me to go. I asked him if he was sure because I really wanted to pace him. But on something so steep, you can only go at your own speed.
"I'm excited that I got a chance to ride for myself but I'm still here to help Christophe. I think he's going to recover in the final week."
Stetina lives in Colorado and revealed that mountain bike riding helped know the importance of spinning a gear on the Zoncolan.
"It was a thrill for me to ride on the Zoncolan. I actually enjoyed it," he said with youthful enthusiasm.
"I ride dirt road on my mountain bikes all the time in Colorado and so I'm used to spinning a low gear. We had mountain bike gears on the bike today. I rode at my own pace, within myself. There's no pressure on me and so I didn't kill myself to go with the accelerations, and I just rode steady all the way up and then in the finale I gave it a dig."
Told of the dirt roads of the Colle delle Finestre on stage 20, Stetina's tired eyes lit up for a second.
"I love that stuff. I'd love to have a go on there," he said.