The American escaped with a large group in stage 8 and attacked solo as the day turned from humid and hot to wet and cold with 30km to go. Unfortunately, he could not hold his move from so far out and his former companions picked him up and Nikias Arndt (Sunweb) sprinted to victory.
“My health is back. I had some fun alternative racing, I’m back in the grand tours. I’m having a hell of a lot of fun this year,” he told VeloNews. “I love this world.”
Stetina suffered through 2018 with the Epstein-Barr virus. He could not do what he loves, racing grand tours. Two years after closing out the 2017 Vuelta, though, he is back.
The eighth stage offered an opportunity for an escape and he tried. The solo move on the Monserra climb left 27km to race, but by the time he reached the top, Fernando Barcelo (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) joined him and the rain fell.
“We knew pretty early we’d be racing for the stage today. This was the day that you could kind of tell no team really wanted to control it with Andorra tomorrow and a parcours like this, but anytime you have 20 guys, it gets complicated. You get a lot of wheel suckers and a lot of unhonest racing.”
He added later, “I hate that because you gotta ride with honor.”
Stetina flew solo and looked convincing. He had spent all day “vigilant” to make sure he was at the front with the top men for the start of the climb.
“That’s where I had to take my shot because I don’t want to come to a sprint with these guys and unfortunately it turned into a bit of a headwind over the top [of the climb] and it wasn’t enough to really shed everybody. Then the rain came and it just totally changed the dynamic and it became risking life and limb on that downhill,” he continued.
“I’ve had some bad accidents in my life so I don’t risk my life on a random corner but I’m confident enough with the disc brakes now, especially to stay with the guys bombing it on the descent, but I’m just not going to be the one attack. We came into those finals with the roundabouts that are wet and it went from hot and humid and ice socks on your back to kind of drizzly and cold and rainy, so your body’s just like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ It was a wild ride.”
In his love for the sport, Stetina spread his wings over the year to ride the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, the Dirty Kanza and win the Belgian Waffle Ride.
“I’m having a lot of fun this year,” he added. “I got my health issues out of the way in the off-season, and I’ve had good form and am mixing it up with some alternative racing. It’s a pleasure to be racing.”