Q&A with pro cyclist Peter Stetina

Mountain bikers descend on Lake Tahoe this weekend for the Tahoe Trail MTB, a 2-loop, 50-kilometer course hosted by Northstar California. One of the headlining riders is professional road racing cyclist, Peter Stetina. Stetina specializes as a climber & mountain domestique, having assisted with many major victories, including the 2012 Giro d'Italia. At the Volta al Pais Vasco in 2015, however, Peter suffered a terrible crash; shattering his patella, fracturing his tibia, & breaking 5 ribs. Yet he demonstrated his incredible recovery in 2016 with 2nd place on the Gibraltar Road climb in Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California and finishing the Tour de France. This week I caught up with Pete to chat cycling, Lake Tahoe and his fall cycling event, Stetina's Sierra Prospect. Meanwhile, follow him on Twitter at @peterstetina and Instagram at @pstetina. (All race photos courtesy of @bettiniphoto.)

Pete, thank you for taking some time to chat. This weekend is the Tahoe Trail MTB. What are you most looking forward to? 

I'm really looking forward to getting back to my roots on knobby tires. I started racing on the MTB before transitioning to a road bike. I still do a fair amount of dirt riding. But to drive to a ski resort, middle of summer, and MTB race is like comfort food for me. I  grew up doing this in Colorado.

Is there a particular section of the course you're excited about?

The beer hand-up at the finish line.

When you're not competing, what are some of your favorite trails and routes around Lake Tahoe?

I'm convinced Tahoe is the world's best altitude training. That's why I bought a cabin on the west shore. I can choose from over 15 different climbs around the area, so no matter my interval set I can always keep it fresh. The views keep it inspiring. My favorite road climb is Barker Pass; it's quiet and twisty like a European climb.

What are some trails you'd recommend for people mountain biking around Lake Tahoe for the first time?

My favorite MTB trail is the rim trail from Mt. Rose to Marlette Lake, then back on the iconic Flume Trail. However, for beginners, you can't go wrong with the Tahoe City trails out of the Nordic Center, where there is a huge network of trails for all levels. That's where my wife learned to ride.

Beyond Lake Tahoe, where are some of your other favorite places to ride around California?

My other home is in Santa Rosa. It proves that variety is the spice of life. You can cruise small country roads and pass through costal, redwood, vineyard, pine forest, pasture and more in a single day. There are gnarly climbs out there too.

As a professional road racing cyclist, do you have some standout destinations around the world where you've ridden?

I love the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites. Every turn in the road is like a postcard shot. But it's not fun racing through their snowstorms in springtime. I suppose Tahoe helps me train for that too.

When you're not riding, how do you spend your time around Lake Tahoe?

I'm originally from Colorado, so the first time I came to Lake Tahoe from Santa Rosa, I felt at home again. Then I felt how the lake enhanced the lifestyle so much more. I knew I had found my happy place. My favorite routine after a hard ride is to swap the lycra for a swimsuit, grab the cooler and drive five minutes to Meek's Bay. The water is Caribbean-clear and the sand is soft. Nothing brings you back to life like a post-ride dip in Big Blue.

I see that you're an IPA lover (as am I). Got some favorite Tahoe IPAs?

Well, I've actually partnered with Revision Brewing out of Reno for Stetina's Sierra Prospect. Jeremy, the head brewer loves the MTB. Then I found out he has a bit of a cult-following from his other projects, and Revision is really pushing the envelope in the craft beer world. I did a blind taste test at my 4th of July party with Revision Double IPA vs Pliny the Elder (Russian River), and Revision won 5 out of 6 times! I'm stoked to actually brew a limited release Prospector Pale Ale with them just for Stetina's Sierra Prospect ride. Profits will go towards our charity too. I've found Revision in a few shops around the lake, too.

You mentioned Stetina's Sierra Prospect. Tell me more about that.

I wanted to create an event in Lake Tahoe, to show it off. A ride founded with "Tahoe-ness" in mind: Quality, epic, fun, inspirational, and a true celebration of all the components both on and off the bike that make cycling great. I hand-selected the routes from my favorite rides around the area, and we have a new timing format that appeals to more people. We have an all-inclusive weekend experience: Northstar is hosting the entire weekend, we have concerts, custom beer, signature Patron cocktails, Nitro cold brew coffee at aid stations, a Gala dinner the night before and a major charitable component with High Fives out of Truckee.

Southern born and bred, Spencer was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, flying on a plane for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at seven. While he continues to travel around the world in search for the best whiskey, Spencer now calls Reno home, where his search is for the best cocktail (and first tracks, naturally). He has written about travel, food, and drinks for a number of publications that have included the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, just to name a few. See a more candid version of Spencer on his website, whiskeytangoglobetrot.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.