After struggling with an upset stomach at the second round of the UCI World Cup series in Albstadt, Germany last weekend, Stephen Ettinger was looking for redemption at the third round of the series in La Bresse, France on Sunday. But cycling can be so cruel. Ettinger fell victim to three flats over the course of three laps, which took the wind out of his sails as he fought to finish 26th. Local Frenchman Julien Absalon (BMC) scored a record 31st cross country World Cup win 20 minutes from his hometown. France owned the podium when BH-SR Suntour-KMC teammates Maxime Marotte and Victor Koretzky finished second and third.

The rain that had been predicted for Sunday’s race instead came the night before, much to Ettinger’s dismay, leaving the course dry except for a few muddy spots.

Photo credit: Rob Jones

Photo credit: Rob Jones

Instead of having to contend with muddy, slippery conditions, many riders were left scrambling to regain position after nursing flats to the tech area for a wheel change. Ettinger’s first flat happened on lap four.

“There were a lot of flats out there,” said Ettinger. “Honestly, I don’t know, I just don’t know. Everything was going perfectly. I was inside the top 15 for sure when the first one happened. It happened on the descent so I had to ride it for a couple minutes before I got to the tech area. I was riding the techy stuff pretty well, but I had to go a little more slowly. It probably cost me 30 to 45 seconds, maybe even a minute.” 

Photo credit: Rob Jones

Photo credit: Rob Jones

After a smooth wheel change, Ettinger started making his way back through the field on lap five in an attempt to regain position inside the top 20. Then disaster struck again - not once but twice over the final two laps.

“I was able to get back up to 16th or 17th, somewhere inside the top 20,” Ettinger said. “I blew some matches doing that, but I had to do it. Then, on lap five with only one lap to go, same thing on the descent – another flat. I was pretty confounded at this point. ‘How does this happen?’ And then it happened again on lap six. Each time I tried to make it back up as far as I could.”

Photo credit: Rob Jones

Photo credit: Rob Jones

Ettinger was able to make up several spots after each flat, but it was far from the day he wanted to have in La Bresse.

“I was in that group fighting for the top 10,” said Ettinger. “Every time you’re in a different group battling in a different way. You can only do so much each lap to bring back that minute you lost."

“On the last lap I was having a good descent,” Ettinger continued. “I left it all out there.”

Now Ettinger will take a few weeks off from racing before he lines up next in his old stomping grounds in Montana for the Missoula UCI HC June 18.

“It’s been a busy spring,” Ettinger said. “I’ve been loving what we’ve been doing, but now I need a moment to catch my breath and re-center a little. I’m going to tune off and check out for a week.”