Peter Stetina collected his first win of the 2020 Grasshopper Adventure Series this weekend at Super Sweetwater in California, but it was a hard-fought victory for the 32-year-old who raced 12 seasons on the road professionally before moving to gravel and adventure racing this year.
"Looking at the numbers, it was very much like riding in the break at a WorldTour stage," Stetina told Cyclingnews. "I averaged, as a lightweight guy, around 270 watts for around three hours. The numbers were high, and those were the sort of numbers I’ve seen in WorldTour stages. It was frigging hard."
Although the 145km race took place mostly on pavement after the final gravel climb had to be scrapped because of road closures, there were plenty of challenges to live up to the "adventure" label.
"It was a proper hilly course," Stetina said. "It wasn’t the longest, but it was plenty enough for February. There were some teams with multiple riders, and they would fire guys up the road. It as definitely a tactical battle. I was definitely very watched, but there was a really, really strong field there."
The lack of gravel put the former road rider on familiar territory, as savvy became as important as leg strength.
"Being all pavement, it tactically became more of a road race," he said. "It was hard, though, and I had to burn a lot of the workload and try and whittle down a lot of the guys on the climbs. There were some major selections, but as I predicted we were caught out by some roadwork restrictions on Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast."
Stetina separated from the masses with a select group on the first major climb about 15km into the day, and then set to work from there trying to wear down the competition. That plan was nearly foiled by the course interruption for road work.
"They held us there for six or seven minutes, so all of a sudden the group went from six or seven to 40 or 50," Stetina said. "But in the spirit of gravel, we played it cool, waved through the cars and then in a gentlemen’s style started en mass again."
The field would whittle down again on the hills before the finish, however, and Stetina was able to come out on top as the leaders contested the final climb to the line.
"Where I had been pushing the pace on the climbs before, all of sudden I couldn’t drop the last few guys," Stetina said. "It became a game of accelerations and attacks all through the last climb. I luckily was able to outlast Floren in the last kilometre of the climb. I barely eeked it out, but it was a very hard-fought battle."
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