BONELLI PARK #1, PRO XCT #1
Fresh off the opening weekend of the 2016 mountain bike season, Stephen Ettinger is eager to head south to San Dimas, California this weekend for Bonelli Park #1. The first stop of the Pro XCT is a big draw for many Americans and top international riders who are looking to test their legs at an early season event. It’s also an opportunity for racers to get in two days of hard racing with the longer cross country race falling on Saturday and the intense short track racing on Sunday.
Ettinger had a disappointing opener at Bear Mountain Canada Cup in Victoria, British Columbia last weekend, but the consummate pro isn’t dwelling on the past. In fact, Ettinger maintains a high level of optimism as he looks ahead to a solid weekend of racing in sunny California.
“I feel good going into Bonelli,” says Ettinger. “The way I see it is that these two races are opportunities to get some racing in my legs, to get readjusted to new equipment and to get back into racing mode. I know I’ve done the work over the winter. I know I’ve taken care of all the little things. I expect to be on the podium. If the pieces of the puzzle all come together, it’s definitely a race I can win.”
“It’s going to be nice to have two races over the course of one weekend,” adds Ettinger. “It’s a good chance to get in a second hard effort which will hopefully translate into better legs in April.”
The 4.2 kilometer cross country track includes tight, twisty single track, short, steep ascents and fast, wide-open fire road. The unrelenting course is just the type of course on which Ettinger excels.
“Bonelli is a good course for me because it’s a physical course – that suits me well,” says Ettinger. “It has hard, punchy climbs and technical sections where you’re always on it. That kind of racing is typically good for me. And I historically do better in cry conditions than wet conditions.”
The forecast for the weekend in San Dimas should play right into Ettinger’s hands as the temperatures are looking to be in the upper 60’s with a little rain Friday night. A slight bit of rain overnight could quell the usually dry, dusty course helping create a tacky grip for sure cornering.
“The conditions could be better than we’ve ever seen,” says Ettinger.
Although Bonelli Park #1 carries no weight due to its low ranking UCI status (C3), Ettinger’s main focus is continuing to put the pieces of the puzzle together leading into the big races in April.
“I want to put together a good race at Bonelli for myself and for my sponsors,” says Ettinger. “But the important races come in April – that’s when it’s crunch time. I’d like to get a good race under my belt at Bonelli before that big block.”
Ettinger has declared that his biggest goal of the season is being selected to Team USA for the Rio Olympics. A key step in his “Road to Rio” bid is obtaining valuable points at the Pan American Continental Mountain Bike Championships in Argentina.
“I’ve got two and half weeks after Bonelli to tune the system before we take off for Argentina,” says Ettinger. “There are a lot of points available at Pan Ams. Sea Otter (UCI HC), Bonelli Park #2 (UCI HC) and the Australian World Cup in Cairns follow in succession. They also offer valuable points. It will be critical to be on point for these races in April.”
Joining Ettinger at Bonelli Park will be a handful of his Ridebiker Alliance teammates. Seven of the pro athletes will be lining up in San Dimas with Adam Pulford acting as team manager. Ettinger’s personal mechanic, Daimo Shanks, will not be in attendance but Ettinger will have all the support he needs.
“The beauty of RBA is that I have a lot of resources around the country that I can draw upon – it makes my life a lot easier,” explains Ettinger. “I can do races like Bonelli over the course of the year that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”
Saturday Cross Country: Elite men 1:45pm PST
Sunday Short Track: Elite men 3pm PST