In a new feature, the Cyclingnews team pick their rider of the day from the Tour of California. Peter Stetina is the third rider to be chosen, and we will be selecting a rider after each stage.
Just over a year ago, Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) was in a Spanish hospital wondering if a horrific crash at Pais Vasco had laid waste to the rest of his cycling career. The then-BMC rider had shattered his patella, cracked the whole tibia and broke five ribs when he smashed into an unmarked traffic bollard.
He returned to racing at the Tour of Utah, and despite using a cane to compensate for the limp that affected his walk, he managed to finish what is considered by many to be the hardest race in the States. He signed with his new team in the offseason and continued to recover, putting an exclamation point on his return
Stetina attacked the select group of climbers with Lachlan Morton, then attacked again before Julian Alaphilippe flew up the mountain to take the stage win ahead of the Trek-Segafredo rider.
"It's been a long spring, and I've been going through a lot of ups and downs and wondering if I could even continue as a pro cyclist," he said. "But I had really earmarked this race and this stage as the place where I really needed to be back, and it's just a testament to mental fortitude and really believing in yourself.
"Probably about a month ago it was more of a blind hope and faith that I could be ready for this race," he said. "All of the sudden during the Ardennes Classics a switch kind of flipped and the attacks from the big guys didn't seem quite as fast, and I was able to be part of the race. So about a month ago it kind of turned to a belief that I could be on top form here. So hopefully it just keeps getting better."
Stetina is now second overall, just 19 seconds behind Alaphilippe. He said after Tuesday's stage that his performance was just the first of more to come this week.
"This year's Amgen Tour of California, you gotta be switched on every day from here on out," he said. "The first two days were kind of the appetiser. Tomorrow is ridiculously tricky, followed by Tahoe, followed by the time trial and followed by Santa Rosa, which is a saw blade on the profile. So this race is far from over."
Pat Malach Says: Peter Stetina's performance proved that he's back from a horrible injury just over a year ago. The work – and courage – to come back from an injury like Stetina's is staggering, and he returned to competition at the Tour of Utah last year following just four months of recovery. For perspective on what Stetina has accomplished, it's instructive to consider that BMC rider Taylor Phinney's recovery from very similar injuries took 14 months.
Seeing Stetina lead the race up Gibraltar and eventually finish second to Julian Alaphilippe was simply fantastic. There were plenty of contenders for today's prize, but Stetina's performance topped them all.
Ted Burns Says: Coming back from an injury like the one Stetina suffered in 2105 is impressive. Being able to come back and contend for a stage the size of Tour of California only a year later is incredible.
Stetina crashed into metal bollard in the road at the 2015 Vuelta al Pais Vasco, breaking his right tibia and patella. The injury required a plate, 14 screws and four months of rehabilitation. The effort required to make it through an injury like that is taxing both physically and mentally. Stetina may have only placed second in today's stage, but his effort demonstrated that he's back in the game.