Photo credit: Colt McElwaine

Photo credit: Colt McElwaine

SATURDAY CROSS COUNTRY

On a beautiful day for bike racing in San Dimas, California, Stephen Ettinger scored his first win of 2016 at Bonelli Park #1 XC. Heavy rain on Friday kept the racers from previewing the course, but an easy lap on the course during pre-ride on Saturday was all Ettinger needed to be on point. From the gun Ettinger put in a dominating performance on a fast and tacky course to take a solo win four seconds ahead of Todd Wells (SRAM/TLD Race Team) and 14 seconds ahead of Alex Grant (Cannondale 360 Fly p/b Sugoi).

Within minutes of the start of the eight lap race, Ettinger was on the front testing his competition. Ettinger knew he had done his homework in the off-season, but the Ridebiker Alliance rider was still surprised by his ability to take control of the race so easily.

“It was not the day I expected to have,” said Ettinger. “I didn’t expect to control the race like I did. I knew I had good sensations. I knew I had done the work, but you go into a race weekend this early in the season and you don’t know where everyone else is at. ‘How fast is Finsty (Russell Finsterwald) [SRAM/TLD Race Team] going right now, how is Geoff Kabush (Scott 3 Rox Racing) going, what has Todd Wells been doing?’.”

“Going up the first long climb, I yarded everyone by five to ten meters,” explained Ettinger. “Initially I’m thinking 'it’s time to slow down, bring it back, reign it in'.”

 

But Ettinger did none of the that – he was on a mission to go faster, not slower. As Ettinger powered away on the front for most of the first lap, it was only Wells and Finsterwald who could match his pace. On the second lap Finsterwald took his turn on the front of the trio, but atop his Focus hardtail, Ettinger felt the speed wasn’t high enough.

“It wasn’t quite as fast as I thought we could make it,” said Ettinger. “That’s not to say Finsty wasn’t riding hard, but I was just really, really in control.”

That steadfast control would eventually launch Ettinger on a solo run all the way to the finish.

“Part of the way through lap two, I went back to the front and gave it some gas on the shorter climbs,” said Ettinger. “My intention was to go out and rally myself and go full gas on the climbs. I did that and in the process ended up gapping Finsty and Todd part way through lap three.”    

Ettinger put his head down and stuck to his game plan – to attack the climbs and recover on the descents. As Ettinger continued his Herculean solo mission, two of the chase groups behind him had consolidated increasing the motivation catch the leader.

“I knew there would be some fireworks coming out of that group,” said Ettinger. “By the end of lap six, I was smoked. When all was said and done, Todd came really close to catching me – he was only four seconds off.”

“To some degree I was racing safe the last lap,” added Ettinger. “At one point I heard I had a 50 second gap. I was feeling pretty good so I kept going. I was conservative on the descents so I didn’t blow a turn and flat a tire.”

Photo credit: Joe Lawwill

Photo credit: Joe Lawwill

 

Ettinger played his cards perfectly. Although Wells was creeping up on the solo rider in the final two laps, Ettinger was able to cross the line with his hands in the air in a victory salute.

“Fortunately at the end I had enough of a margin to preserve what I had worked for all day long,” said Ettinger. “Todd finished really strong, which is no surprise. Alex wasn’t far behind him. They have that old man strength and they know how to use it.”

“Overall I give two thumbs up on all fronts,” exclaimed Ettinger. “The course was absolutely perfect. These were the best course conditions I’ve ever had here. It was a good day to race bikes.”

“The Di2 was stellar and it felt good to be on a hardtail,” added Ettinger. “What surprised me the most was how good it felt to be back on a hardtail. It was bumpy and physical but it was definitely the right bike for today.”

 

SUNDAY SHORT TRACK

On the heels of a dominating performance in the cross-country race the day before, Ettinger squeezed out another podium finish in the short track race with a fourth place. Although he had hoped for more, it comes as no surprise that his legs were a tad bit on the tired side.

"I had pretty flat legs from yesterday's long solo effort," Ettinger said. "I didn't quite have the same spunk but that's how it goes. It was good to go do it and see what would happen."

RIDEBIKER ALLIANCE TEAM

Joining Ettinger in the bike racing fun this weekend in California was the Ridebiker Alliance crew.

"I was taken very good care of by Ridebiker Alliance," said Ettinger. "Everything that I needed, they were there to help out. Having that resource is truly awesome. I had great support from Adam, Cold and Derek our team mechanic, but I dearly wish that Daimo could have been here. We’ve been through so many big races together and have had shared so many successes and failures. It’s always nice to share the successes with him."