Nestled in the north-eastern corner of France, La Bresse plays host to the third round of the UCI XCO World Cup series. On hiatus since 2012, international racing action returns to this technical track with its steep climbs and hairy descents. Following on the heels of an uninspiring course at the Albstadt World Cup last weekend, the more thrilling course in La Bresse will offer a welcome change for Stephen Ettinger.
“This course is super fun,” says Ettinger. “It has natural features, it’s techy and punchy – it will be good. There is rain in the forecast which could make it super spicy. I’m excited.”
“It’s super fun to ride and that goes so far for me,” continues Ettinger. “If I’m having fun out there, there’s a whole other set of gears I can find. The climbs are fairly steep, which I don’t love, but I can do well. I’m looking forward to it.”
Although Ettinger had a rough go at the Albstadt World Cup one week ago, the determined and always optimistic 27-year old doesn’t flinch when he lays out his goals for La Bresse. With Olympic selection right around the corner, Ettinger knows it’s time to get the job done.
“After last weekend, I want to be back up in that top 20 for sure,” says Ettinger. “I can do that here. Top 10 is the goal because it’s Olympic qualification. At this point I’m going to go out and ride as fast as I possibly can on Sunday. And that’ll be that. There’s nothing more I can do. Olympic selection is on my mind, but I’m trying to push it out of my head for the weekend.”
To help shake off the disappointment from Albstadt, Ettinger stayed back in Germany to spend a few days in Freiberg with friends to recharge and refocus his body and mind.
“It was good to see some friends and to ride some familiar roads and trails,” says Ettinger. “It’s a place where I have so many memories. When I first started racing in Europe, that’s the first place I went. The memories I have from the inception of this thing really blow me away. It was good to be in a place that was really grounding for a few days. It was powerful because I was able to step away and reconnect with some of the motivations and people and experiences that make this a really, really fun and amazing journey.”
For a professional mountain biker, attention to detail doesn’t stop with one’s physical and mental condition but also includes every bit of componentry on the bike. Supported by sponsors like Shimano, Fox and Kenda, Ettinger’s Focus bike will be dialed and ready to take the hits on Sunday.
“I have a new XTR chain ring that is just amazing,” explains Ettinger. “It seems like it will hold the chain better and shifts more smoothly. I spent some time with Fox getting my suspension dialed, which is important on such an aggressive, technical course. I’ll make a race day decision on tires because we just don’t know yet about the rain. Right now I feel good about running the Sabers, but if it rains, we will have to see if it is watery mud or sticky mud.”
When competing on international soil, Ettinger exchanges his Ridebiker Alliance kit for the stars and stripes of Team USA. Although the riders and staff are different from his usual crew in the U.S., Ettinger finds the trade an easy and familiar one.
“It’s been awesome with Team USA,” Ettinger says. “We’ve had a good group of people around this week. It’s been relaxed with a good and healthy environment. Everyone is focused. I think we can do really well this weekend.”
“I am psyched to get this one going.”
Follow the action live on Red Bull TV. Pro men’s racing starts at 2.20 CEST in La Bresse. For those watching from the U.S., racing will begin at 8am EDT. http://beta.redbull.tv/live/AP-1KTPAG5VH2111/uci-mountain-bike-world-cup