Just short of San Luis win, Stetina aiming for Tour de France

American has refocused for 2014 and hopes to support Tejay van Garderen in France come July

SAN LUIS, Argentina (VN) — The Tour de San Luís nearly had two American stage winners in two days on Tuesday, when Peter Stetina (BMC Racing) fell just short of pulling off a summit victory on the Mirador del Potrero de los Funes.

On only his second day racing in the red-and-black of BMC Racing after a career spent with Garmin-Sharp, Stetina attacked early on the 4.8-kilometer climb, hoping to set up the team’s GC leader, Colombian Darwin Atapuma.

His attack drew out another Colombian, Julian Arredondo, who had been sitting on the wheel of Nairo Quintana (Movistar). When Stetina attacked, Arredondo promptly perched himself on the American’s wheel as they raced up the windy mountain on the outskirts of San Luís, in central Argentina.

That move lit up the peloton, causing massive separation. Behind, Quintana chased, with Atapuma on his wheel. However, when the pair came to the finish, they only led their chasers by three seconds, and Arredondo, who had sat on Stetina, came around for the stage win.

“It was a tactical climb and there was a real bad headwind,” Stetina said. “After a kilometer, it swelled and I looked over at Darwin [Atapuma], who’s our climbing extraordinaire. He nodded at me, so I decided to hit out and make it hard. Otherwise, it would be too much drafting all the way up. I got a gap immediately and I was hoping that either it would shatter behind and Darwin could come up to me, or he could just come across.”

Quintana crossed the line three second back, with Atapuma on his wheel. In all, three Colombians made up the top four on the stage.

“[Arredondo] wasn’t willing to take a pull,” Stetina said. “That was his tactic. He was willing to lose it more than I was, and that’s why he won. He had a better kick than I did. I knew what was happening, and that’s tactics. He was willing to lose the race more than I was, and that’s why he won it. I wasn’t willing to let the group get closer.”

Atapuma said he was content to watch his teammate go on the attack. “Everything was like the plan we did in the morning with our sport director,” he said. “For sure it was a pity that Peter did not win the stage, because we worked together for this goal. But on the other hand, I’m sure that we are on the way to getting good results soon.”

Stetina, 26, has begun a new chapter in his career in 2014. After riding in the Slipstream Sports development program since its inception, he turned pro in 2010, and though he has finished the Giro d’Italia three times — Stetina played an integral role in Ryder Hesjedal’s 2012 Giro victory — he has never raced the Tour de France.

He intends to see that change in July, when he would like to help another young American, his friend Tejay van Garderen, in the mountains. Before that, he’ll race Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, the Amgen Tour of California, and either the Tour de Suisse or Critérium du Dauphiné.

“I’ve got some new motivation this year,” Stetina said. “I’ve been working on the climbs. I’m disappointed that I didn’t win the stage, but my goals are later in the year — the Tour of California, and to help Tejay at the Tour. My goal is to make the Tour team.”