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Pete Stetina cut his teeth with the Slipstream...

Stetina: It would be a massive shame to lose Slipstream

A personal connection to Slipstream makes Cannondale-Drapac's peril even more troubling for Pete Stetina.

LORCA, Spain (VN) — Peter Stetina stepped out of the Trek-Segafredo bus frowning at the rain. It hasn’t rained in months in Spain’s arid southeast, but it was coming down in buckets for Wednesday’s decisive climbing stage.

“The Biblical flooding of southern Spain,” he joked.

The 30-year-old American had other reasons to frown as well. Like others inside the pro peloton, Stetina is unnerved to see the Cannondale-Drapac team on the financial ropes. Unlike others, however, Stetina has a personal link to the team. He can thank the Slipstream organization for helping him reach the peloton’s elite level.

The Colorado native is one of the original junior riders from the 5280 development squad who graduated to the pro ranks. After riding to back-to-back top-10s at the Tour de l’Avenir in 2008-2009, Stetina turned professional with Garmin-Transitions in 2010. He raced five seasons with the pro team before switching to BMC Racing in 2014, and then to Trek-Segafredo in 2016 after overcoming a horrible injury.

VeloNews caught up with Stetina, whose future is secure with Trek-Segafredo, to discuss what the Slipstream meant to him, and his view on the team’s latest financial struggles:

VeloNews: What was your reaction when you heard the news about Cannondale-Drapac?
Peter Stetina: I was one of the original 5280 juniors from Colorado, and they helped me become a ProTour rider. Not many teams have that full farm-league development. That is a testament of what JV has done in 10-15 years in the sport. When I read that [news], I was sad. ‘JV’ [Jonathan Vaughters] and [Slipstream president] Matt Johnson and those guys are a resourceful crew. It’s a shame that they have to go through it.

VN: Is this a symptom of the vulnerability of the sport?
PS: It’s a problem for all the sport. Now it’s those guys, and I am just lucky that I am not on a contract year this year. It’s not just that team, and 25 riders, it affects everyone looking for a contract right now. It’s like a lottery. When you’re number’s up, some years it’s easy to find a contract, and in other years, you could be going back to work at a super market or going back to school.

VN: You’ve been active with the CPA riders’ union and the North American riders’ group; is there any way to change this?
PS: Just look at how other sports are organized. There’s revenue sharing, there are securities, there are salary caps. There are so many things; jersey sales, for example. Right now, the UCI and ASO control as much as they can, and the players of the sport are getting scraps. That is something that has been a highlighted issue for a while.

VN: If Cannondale-Drapac did close, what would cycling lose?
PS: It would lose a massive American player. BMC and Trek are American teams, but Cannondale has the most American riders. They always race the wild card. They don’t take control of the race, like you see BMC or Team Sky doing. They attack, they make the race exciting, and they like to use adverse tactics. Sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don’t. They always have been able to make a race exciting. When I am on the team, it’s fun. When I am not on their team, it’s annoying when they pull some of these tactics. It would be a massive shame. A lot of my best friends are on this team, and I know all the staffers, who have been there for a decade. I don’t want to see anybody lose their job. And the sport doesn’t need to lose another team right now.

‘It’s an honor to ride for Contador’

Stetina is also riding in support to Alberto Contador in the Spaniard’s final grand tour. Stetina said riding with Contador in his final race is akin to playing the final season with Michael Jordan.

VN: The team is riding for Alberto, but you’re on great form as well. Do you see a scenario when you could take your own chance?
PS: It depends on the day. As long as Alberto is gunning for the podium and stage wins, I have a duty [to work]. To be honest, I am honored to help him in his final race. He is one of the biggest champions this sport has ever seen. To help him in his final race of his career, it’s awesome. If there is a time to get up the road, when it’s possible, I can be there when he attacks later. And if it’s not going to happen, I can be allowed to play for the stage win. A lot of these starts are pan-flat, so it’s the big diesels like [Matteo] Trentin that are getting up the road. You’re not seeing lightweight climbers getting up the road so far. I need a climb to start the stage to have a chance to escape. A lot of these stages don’t lend themselves getting into the break to ride for the win. It’s a weird nuance. We’ll see what happens. I did have my chance in Colorado. If I can get the chance to go for it here at the Vuelta, I will take it.

VN: It’s raining buckets today. You’re a Colorado boy, are you also a rain man?
PS: No. Now that I live in Nor-Cal in the winter, I do ride in the rain a lot more. It’s never fun to race in it, though. Riding in it is one thing, but racing in the rain, it’s about trusting the other guys in the peloton. Going through round-abouts are treacherous. Yeah, it sucks. Cycling is a fair-weather sport. That’s when people love it. We have no choice.