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SAN MARCOS, California (VN) — Peter Stetina overcame cramps, 90-degree temperatures, and a surprise long-range attack from mountain biker Sandy Floren to win Sunday’s Belgian Waffle Ride San Diego, defending his title from 2019.
Stetina attacked out of the main group of chasers in the race’s final 50 miles alongside Russell Finsterwald and John Borstelmann, and then worked with his breakaway companions to chase down the surging Floren, who spent more than 70 miles off the front.
On the final climb of the day, the ascent of Double Peak, Stetina dropped his companions and then caught and dropped Floren, eventually descending to the finish in San Marcos to take the win.
“It’s so much relief — when you have to deal with the media and the expectation, and I want to show sponsors that this career move made sense,” Stetina said at the finish. “It’s validation and it’s relief.”
Stetina said he battled through mechanical problems and leg cramps throughout the day, and that he did not expect to come away with the victory. As the race hit its midpoint at mile 70 Stetina rode in the major chase group, which was more than five minutes down on Floren and his breakaway companion Stephen Vogel.
But in the race’s second half the field appeared to wilt in the heat and Stetina made his move.
“I wrote myself off about 10 times today. I did not have a clean run by any means,” Stetina said. “There were a few odd mechanicals, no major issues, but something would go wrong due to the bumps. My derailleur worked its way loose and I had to stop and screw it back in. I was crashed on an uphill in soft sand. There were a few things like that.”
Stetina surged from the group on the Sandy Bandy section of loose sand between miles 95 and 110, drawing out Finsterwald and Borstelmann. As the duo hit the base of the final climb Stetina attacked, surging away from the two and giving chase to Floren, whose advantage had dropped to 1:30 at the base of the climb. He then caught and dropped the mountain bike racer midway up the climb, and powered on alone to the summit.
Stetina came into the race having won Utah’s Crusher in the Tushar, and having finished third at Unbound Gravel. He said the brutal conditions and fast racing at Belgian Waffle Ride was another sign that the U.S. gravel field is increasing every year in strength and difficulty.
“These are my A races now. This is it’s own legitimate discipline,” Stetina said. “We are creating our own discipline and I’m so proud to be a part of it. This is fun — now I get to have beers with 4,000 of my friends.”
Belgian Waffle Ride
Elite Men (provisional)
- Peter Stetina, Canyon-Clif Bar
- Sandy Floren, Dirt Camp Devo
- Russell Finsterwald, Clif Bar
- John Borstelmann, Abus
- Stephan Vogel, Project Echelon