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MEGÈVE, France (VN) — Peter Stetina has the green light to start his first Tour de France after a week racing with BMC’s leader, Tejay van Garderen, at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“Everyone’s saying Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, but that’s more for this race,” Stetina said. “There are three weeks in the Tour de France, and five weeks until it finishes, so a lot can happen. We are opportunistic, we are rallying around Tejay.”
The 26-year-old from Colorado has already ridden three editions of the Giro d’Italia, and helped Ryder Hesjedal win the 2012 race. Over the winter, BMC Racing signed him from Garmin-Sharp — but not for the Giro. BMC wanted him to help form part of the Tour group with van Garderen.
Stetina blossomed immediately. He raced to eighth overall in the Tour de San Luis and sixth in the Amgen Tour of California. In California, he had his chance to lead the team but suffered because the time trial stage was “just a pure power, big roller course.” Afterward, he switched to his helper role and to forming part of the van Garderen group.
“I came away from California with good morale and lessons,” he said. “I enjoyed taking my own chance, racing for myself, but now I’ve recalibrated to help Tejay for the Tour.”
Part of van Garderen’s support group was on test this week in the Dauphiné, where BMC’s Tour captain was off the mark after missing the early spring races Paris-Nice and Tour de Romandie. Van Garderen wound up 13th overall, but finished well on Sunday’s final stage, riding with the lead group.
“We are enjoying our time together here,” said Stetina. “In the last few days, we clicked. We ride and without speaking, we know what to do. We don’t have to speak a lot, we are in the same zone, and that’s important for July.
“Even [with the mishaps] we had good practice and we paced him, that’s important to be able to do. Hopefully those bad days don’t come next month.”
Before the Tour start July 5 in Leeds, England, Stetina will put the final touches on his Tour preparations. On Monday, he travels to his European base in Girona, Spain, to repack ahead of a long journey. He will join van Garderen and the team at a training camp in Val Gardena, Italy, near the Austrian border.
“I get to have a few days away from Tejay,” he said with a laugh. “It’s good to do — that way I come back fresh with different stories.”
Their journey from Val Gardena to Paris, via Leeds, should see them cross paths with Stetina’s former teammate Andrew Talansky. Garmin’s star won the Dauphiné on Sunday, snatching the yellow jersey right off Alberto Contador’s shoulders on the final stage, and plans to battle for a Tour podium place.
If they do cross swords, Stetina’s time with Talansky could come in handy.
“Andrew’s strongest point is his intensity,” said Stetina. “He hunkers down and won’t let go. He’s stubborn, and that’s why they call him ‘The Pit Bull.’ Tejay has a motor and is hugely talented. We can rally around him well.”