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Men’s defending LeadBoat champion Peter Stetina will be on the startline at both the Leadville 100 and SBT GRVL this weekend. That in itself feels like a victory given the tough year the American rider and his family have gone through.
It’s been a challenging period, ever since the start of the gravel season when Stetina fractured a wrist in a crash during Sea Otter in April.
He would later contract COVID and see another segment of his season disrupted but the most significant and personal stage of his year came when he and his wife Dyanna’s twin children Layla and Emery were born prematurely and with complications in July.
Such a scenario and the raw emotions that go with it are difficult to put into words but suffice to say everything takes a back seat at that point, priorities shift, and the idea of elite racing and competition becomes secondary.
Soon after the twins’ arrival the Stetinas relocated to San Francisco, near one of the best children’s hospitals in the world, and in the last month everything within Stetina’s world has understandably revolved around family. In the next few days Layla is likely to be discharged and allowed home for the first time but Emery is still fighting his way through some tough moments.
“My kiddos came a week after Crushar in the Tushar and they’ve been around for three weeks,” a proud Stetina told VeloNews on Thursday evening.
“They came early, and the caveat of that is that they are still in hospital and under the care of nurses. The bike part has taken a back seat and that side of life, I’ve tried to fit that in super early in the morning and then head to the hospital. We temporarily relocated down to San Francisco because it’s a really good hospital and it’s the best care that we can get for the kids. It’s a hurdle to learn new routes and ride at the crack of dawn to beat the work traffic but you juggle that.”
“Whereas last year, when everything flowed, and winning was almost the easy part, this has been such a stark contrast. It’s been one hiccup after another and it’s been broken bones, COVID, the unknown of my children’s births and some other issues too. I’ve never been able to catch a break and get that flow. Even aside from the birth of my kids, it was a good time to take my foot off the gas for a minute and stop banging my head against the wall.”
Stetina’s partners and sponsors have been incredibly supportive. They stood back and allowed the rider to prioritize his family’s needs above all else. Commitments have been decided by Stetina and he has taken the steps required to ensure that training fits around his family’s needs.
“That’s the cool thing about this lone wolf, and the privateer side of things. You can make your own schedule and call your own shots. My sponsors have let me do what’s best for me and let me balance things. It’s fun to be in such a space in a time like this. There’s been nothing but support,” he says.
“You know what else has stood out?” he asks after a long pause.
“That I’ve been on a path of relatability and balance since I left the WorldTour and I think that folks can relate to that at a time like this. The preparation isn’t always right but this is about the adventure. I’m coming from staring at the ocean and breathing full oxygen to coming up to altitude and trying my best. I’m going there to suffer with everyone else. Maybe I’ll grab a bit of luck and taking my foot off the gas could benefit me.”
Stetina will remain on the west coast until the last possible moment, only heading to Leadville on Friday before a whirlwind couple of days that will see him take on arguably the toughest off-road weekend on the North American scene. Last year he was awarded with a denim jacket for his overall win at Leadboat that came courtesy of his consistency in both Leadville and SBT GRVL.
A repeat victory is unlikely but given the context it’s just good to see Stetina lining up. There will no doubt be plenty of support from both the elite competitors and his fellow participants, and if you see the defending champion out on the course be sure to give him your support too.