Nearing the end of a big block of travel, which will bring the 2016 season to a close, Stephen Ettinger capped off another weekend of racing at the Boston Rebellion in Walpole, Massachusetts with a fourth place in the cross country race and a third place in the short track race. Racing in the United States to prepare for the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup next weekend, German Markus Schulte-Lünzum (Focus XC Team) and teammate Swissman Florian Vogel scored first and second in the cross country race on Saturday with Canadian Derek Zandstra (Scott 3 Rox Racing) crossing the line in third.
In the cross country race, Ettinger got caught up in traffic early but was able to work his way through to the front of the race by the end of lap one. Once he made it to the leaders, they made quick work of putting daylight between themselves and the rest of the field.
“On that course there wasn’t much space to move up at all,” said Ettinger. “I worked diligently to make it up to the front group of five. As soon as I bridged across, we didn’t see anyone else the rest of the day. We put minutes into the field – there was a lot of air between ourselves and everybody else. It was fast at the pointy end of the race.”
For most of the hour and forty two minute race, Ettinger played his cards right and was patient as he sized up his competition before making his move on the final lap. Ettinger was caught and subsequently put in another attack in a bid for victory. But his lead was brought to an end by an obtrusive rock.
“I felt like I was as strong as anyone in the group and probably riding better than everybody else,” Ettinger said. “So going into the final lap, I rode to the front and applied a bit of pressure and immediately opened a little gap. On that course five to 10 seconds was a lot. It was really pedally, but it had lots and lots of corners so there was nowhere to really grab time back.”
“I was thinking “this feels great”, but they clawed their way back,” continued Ettinger. “So I tried again. When I did that I came bombing into a corner and too late saw this two-inch rock that I put my front wheel right on. It was a blown out, off camber corner. I laid myself down. That was that. The race was over for me at that point. I was kicking myself for my little momentary lapse. I was in a really good spot, feeling good, feeling confident, and I dropped the ball on that.”
Although Ettinger didn’t get the result he wanted on the day, he didn't walk away empty handed. His fourth place finish propelled him to the top of the US Cup standings, earning him the coveted heavy weight belt that comes with the US Cup title.
“It felt good to earn that belt,” said Ettinger. “It was something on the radar earlier in the year, but I didn’t realize I was going to have as good a shot at the overall as I did. It’s a cool memento to go home with. The belt will probably go on a wall in my house.”
In the short track race on Sunday, Ettinger was able to go one place better with a third place finish. Zandstra pocketed the win and German Luca Schwarzbauer (Lexware Mountainbike Team) finished second on a fast course that saw a larger group stay together to the finish.
“There wasn’t enough horsepower in the race to really string it out,” said Ettinger. “My mistake was waiting for other people to make moves. I put in some digs to try to string things out, to get everyone excited and fired up hoping other people would open things up. The little digs would get people to the front to start taking pulls to string it out. I was hoping one of those would stick but it didn’t.”
“I should have gone for it with two laps to go,” Ettinger said. “I should have tried to take everyone by surprise.”
With one lap to go, the field was still together. Ettinger, who was sitting in third wheel with half a lap to go, tried to make his move but was caught up in lapped traffic. The order of riders going into the final rock garden was the same order that crossed the finish line.
“It was frustrating but my fault for not putting myself in better position to begin with,” said Ettinger. “It was a good weekend of racing, but because of my own mistakes I’m left wondering “what could have been?” But it was all me, so I can’t be bitter about it.”
Racing his last race with the Ridebiker Alliance crew, Ettinger will now spend the week in New England as he road trips his way to Canada for one of his favorites on the calendar - the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup.