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Peter Stetina leads the Tour de l’Avenir

Peter Stetina stormed into the leader’s jersey Tuesday at the Tour de l’Avenir and took such a formidable lead that he could become the first American to win the race since Greg LeMond in 1982. Stetina, 21, joined a five-man breakaway that surged away in the opening kilometers of a hilly stage across the Massif Central in the 181.5km fourth stage from Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Saint-Flour. Holland’s Ricardo Van der Velde won the stage out of the breakaway, but Stetina takes a 2:27 lead over Frenchman Jerome Coppel.

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Could become the first American since LeMond to win

By Andrew Hood

Peter Stetina stormed into the leader’s jersey Tuesday at the Tour de l’Avenir and took such a formidable lead that he could become the first American to win the race since Greg LeMond in 1982.

Stetina, 21, joined a five-man breakaway that surged away in the opening kilometers of a hilly stage across the Massif Central in the 181.5km fourth stage from Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Saint-Flour.

Holland’s Ricardo Van der Velde won the stage out of the breakaway, but Stetina takes a 2:27 lead over Frenchman Jerome Coppel.

“I had planned to attack in this stage. I liked the route and I had good legs,” he said. “I have the jersey and a decent lead. I will try to make it all the way.”

Fresh off ninth overall and best young rider’s honors at the Tour of Utah, a confident Stetina joined a flurry of early attacks.

While the peloton chased, Stetina and four others managed to stay clear. Joining him were Van der Velde, Klauss Lodewijk, Cyril Bessy and Matteo Busato.

Stetina led the way over the top of the Col de Pichillon at 49.5km while the peloton languished at 6:30 adrift. The gap grew to 7:00 over the Cote d’Estivareilles and to eight minutes over the Cote de Malaveille at 70km.

The gap grew to a maximum of 10:25 before the peloton began to pull in earnest. Over the day’s last climb at the Col de Lestival at 139km, Stetina broke away to pull clear by 1:05 over the summit, but he wisely pulled up to wait for his fellow escapees.

“I felt so good that I even wanted to take off solo with 40km to go (on the Col de Lestival), but there would be too much and I realized it would have been stupid,” he said. “So I waited for the others and the five of us continued by working together to take as much advantage as we could to the line. It paid off.”

The peloton revved up the chase and trimmed the gap to 4:50 with 10km to go, but the attack was as good as gone.

Lodewicjk couldn’t follow the pace in the late attacks as Van der Velde opened up a long winning sprint at 300 meters. Stetina, whose father Dale was a U.S. national champion in the 1980s, came through fourth.

Rui Costa of Portugal led the main pack across the line at 3:15 in sixth with fellow American Thomas Peterson in seventh. Peterson moved into 14th as the second-best American at 3:15 back. Tejay Van Garderen is 19th at 3:32 off the pace.

The Avenir tour continues Wednesday with another hilly stage across the southern edges of the Massif Central. With eight rated climbs (six third category, one second and one four), the jagged profile is ideal for another breakaway.

The next major hurdle is the 21km individual time trial around Blaye-les-Mines on Thursday.