With his home county of Sonoma decimated by the recent Californian fires, cycling understandably isn't Peter Stetina's major priority at the moment. The consummate professional would rather be at home helping his community deal with the repercussions but is half a world away in China for the inaugural Tour of Guangxi.
The 30-year-old Trek-Segafredo rider started his season at the Tour Down Under and will finish his season in China, having also packed in a Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España. For Stetina, the preparation has been less than ideal for the six-day race but he explained the importance of lining out in his team colours.
"It is not easy right now with the fires. The air has been so bad you couldn't even ride a bike down there and 20 per cent of our city has been evacuated or lost their home," Stetina explained to Cyclingnews. "My thoughts have not been with bike racing for the last week. This was secondary if we lost my house then there is no way I would leave my family and my home. It looks like over the weekend right before I came out that the winds started to die a little bit and they were able to get things under control and we felt safe that we could come.
"You feel guilty that you are one of the lucky ones who hasn't lost everything. I still have my house and my family. I have lot of friends that don't. You almost feel bad that you are in a fortunate situation so you want to help but this is a job and also so stressful and such a shell-shocked feeling in our town that it was a bit of a vacation to get away from that. If I can do something nice here it gives people a lot of motivation that we still persevere through and we keep trucking no matter what happens. That is where I am at right now.”
Just a matter of weekends before the devastating fires hit California, the worst in terms of life lost and damage bill on record, Stetina was celebrating the successful first edition of his Lake Tahoe to Nevada Stetina's Sierra Prospect. It is an event for which Stetina co-collaborated with a local brewing company for a limited edition beer.
"That was a career highlight. It was successful and we got what we wanted out of it. We already have bigger plans for next year and it was such a high and then I flew straight to Italy and had a really good race in Milano-Torino with a leadership position and I was able to duke it out on the club with some of the best guys in the world.
“Lombardy was nice and but was just so much excitement and stimulus and then to come home, literally, landing and seeing the messages and what is happening… it was straight into another battle and another all systems go kind of situation and then straight to here. It has been a month of non-stop really. The adrenals are pretty toasted at this point. I need a couple of extra coffees in the morning. I am looking forward to the off-season after the race but enjoying China when I can and then get home and not think about the bike and help my community rebuild."
A packed 2017 has seen Stetina ride two Grand Tours in the one year for the first time in his career, including a debut Vuelta a España in support of Alberto Contador in his final race. He also rode the Giro in support of Bauke Mollema, with the team trusting him as a key domestique for the mountains. A successful gran fondo, stage win at the Cascade Classic with the national team, and the recent fires have all contributed to a tiring and emotional year for Stetina. Before he can hang up the bike and get to work helping in the Sonoma and northern California recovery efforts, or reflect on the year, Stetina is fully focused on the job at hand in China.
"It has been a long season. I started in Tour Down Under and I am finishing in China so it is as long as you can go," he said. "Two Grand Tours, Contador's final race, I had some good results personally in Italy and also in Colorado. It has been a successful season but even from the Vuelta I went straight into staying up to midnight doing emails for my event in Tahoe so it was one after another, it was kind of like looking forward to the next goal. I think once I can stop at home and just have slow morning breakfast and during the off-season is when I'll look at this season but it is still going.”