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Groad Trip: Kicking off the race season with a win at Shasta Gravel Hugger

And some new projects in my ever-changing world of gravel privateer.

It’s a stark contrast to last spring. In early 2020 gravel races were everywhere and every weekend, it was all anyone would talk about in the industry. The hype was near-frenetic before it came screeching to a halt with the pandemic. As a newbie to the gravel scene I made sure I had come out swinging, with form that rivaled what I would need in the WorldTour early season races such as Tour Down Under or UAE Tour.

This spring is much more of a simmer as we plan to get boiling by summer. I am (finally) racing again, but with the holiday’s transmission spikes fresh in everyone’s minds, a majority of typical spring races hedged their bets and scooped up nearly every summer weekend when outdoor events should be more comfortable and vaccines widely distributed.

This means my spring up until now has been remarkably relaxed. It’s become a time to work on the business side of privateering and enjoy a smattering of regional events. I’m taking a slower build, knowing I’ll likely be racing nearly every weekend from June through October.

Racing to the win at the Shasta Gravel Hugger. Photo: Sean Bagshaw

Alt projects: A new website and a Stetina Cycling Experience

I’m happy to announce my downtime has finally yielded my new website, www.peterstetina.com. It includes my latest updated racing schedule as covid continually forces me to stay nimble, as well as an encyclopedia of media projects, some of my top craft beer picks, plus a game that might give you some nostalgia. A unique podcast is coming as well in the near future.

I’m also proud to announce my collaboration with a local Wine Country hotel chain; The Stetina Cycling Experience at Hotel Healdsburg’s properties. When visiting a locale, don’t you wish you could follow a real local’s route? Well, I’ve created six routes ranging in difficulty from green to double black, complete with beta on secret water spigots, extensions/short-cut options, and bakery stops. They’re all preloaded on GPS units which guests can take from the concierge free of charge.

Additionally, I can take you on a customized ride personally, and for every guided ride booked, a local at-risk youth is provided a bike, helmet, lock, and cycling class via the B-Rad Foundation. Simply: Ride with me = get a kid on a bike of their own.

If you’re considering riding in wine country, check it out, support the community, and book your stay outside of my race/travel calendar!

Winning at Shasta Gravel Hugger

Last weekend my 2021 race season officially kicked off at the Shasta Gravel Hugger. The race was fortunate enough to get their county public health department’s green light. I checked in with the organizer and was pleased to hear there would be mandatory masks around the start/finish and aid stations as well as contactless packet pick-up, and wave starts.

It was a 4.5-hour drive from home, with free overnight parking for us van lifers and car campers. I readily signed up and headed north towards the Oregon border under the shadow of Mount Shasta. The NorCal & Oregon field quality is pretty deep and both men’s and women’s start lists boasted strong competition.

U.S. cyclocross champ Clara Honsinger was among the favorites in Shasta. Photo: Sean Bagshaw

I woke up the morning of the race to blue skies but a fresh three inches of snow had fallen overnight and race temps would be in the low 40’s most of the day. Luckily these roads generally drain well and with the exception of a few fully covered jeep roads most of the dirt was soft and sticky but rideable.

This course is an almost equal match of pavement and gravel, so rolling resistance is an important consideration. With the overnight storm, I nixed my plan to ride a road bike (which would have been doable in dry conditions) and opted for my Canyon Grail gravel bike with 32c IRC Serac CX Edge tires. The course is fun, entertaining and inspiring with Mount Shasta looming over the entire valley floor. She was out in full splendor, donning a nice new white dress for us that morning!

The race started fast, but I was able to force a selection on some early hills and had two companions for company. One of which was Jonathan Baker, a wizard in the technical terrain who had gotten the better of me at The Mid South last year in similar conditions.

The biggest challenge of the day was nursing the bike in all the slop and grit. I’d learned my lesson at Mid South and really focused on listening to the bike. The mini bottle of Squirt lube in my jersey pocket became my best friend as I had to re-lube on the fly multiple times to quiet that chain as it really started to crunch. Baker and I traded pull for pull for much of the race until I was finally able to dispatch him on a short hill, only to subsequently wipe out in a snowy section!

First race, first place. Here’s to more fun at the races in 2021. Photo: Molly Cameron

Fortunately, crashing in snow is usually more enjoyable than painful. Unfortunately, he caught me. I was forced to distance him one last time with 25 miles to go and solo in for the win. Baker finished a few minutes back and my 19-year-old training partner who has just signed for Trinity Racing Pro Team in Europe, Luke Lamperti, rolled in for third on a road bike and road pedals despite the conditions!

Due to the wave start implemented as part of the Covid protocols, the women’s field enjoyed their own race entirely. While I didn’t catch the action, two fellow Bay Area and Sportful colleagues Maude Farrell and Moriah Wilson (the current female White Rim FKT holder!) were able to edge out U.S. cyclocross champ Clara Honsinger in the sprint for the line.

Up next, I jump back into the alternative project game of the privateer, I’ve got Ian Boswell and Colin Strickland joining me for the next Wahoo Frontiers project, season 2 episode 1: How gravel pros do training camp. Follow along on social this week for snippets of the fun!