Racing his last UCI World Cup for the season at the iconic Mont-Sainte-Anne venue, Stephen Ettinger didn’t have the day he was hoping for on one of his favorite tracks. Settling into the middle of the pack, Ettinger finished 26th on the day. Former world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Julien Absalon took the win, notching his 32nd career World Cup victory.
Ahead of Sunday’s XCO race, Ettinger was hopeful that he would score his best World Cup finish to date, but Ettinger wasn’t able to parlay his top form into the big result he wished for.
“It wasn’t my best World Cup, and it wasn’t my worst,” said Ettinger. “It would have been a lot of fun to go out with a bang but that’s the way it goes. The emotional reserves and motivation are pretty clearing waning at this point with the way the season has played out. I think I have as good of form as I’ve ever had but it’s hard to let that shine through when shit hasn’t gone as I'd hoped the last six weeks and I've put in so many travel miles this year. It’s good to put something together at the end of the year, but it’s not necessarily the statement I wanted to make.”
The oldest venue on the World Cup circuit, Mont-Sainte-Anne delivered another challenging course with steep climbs and rooty, rocky descents. In its 24-year history, this venue has undoubtedly become one of the favorites for the racers.
“I had a great time,” Ettinger said. “It was a lot of fun. The course was awesome. There were a lot of people out there yelling my name, which always feels good.”
As the weekend came to a close in Canada, so did a five-year relationship between Ettinger and his mechanic Daimeon Shanks. Coming full circle, the long-time friends started and finished their storied journey in Mont-Sainte-Anne.
“It was cool to have Daimo there for one last big one,” Ettinger said. “We’ve been doing this together for five years. It’s definitely the end of a chapter for us. Our friendship is not over by any means. There will be a lot more time we spend together, but this chapter definitely had a bookend in a lot of ways. This year kind of marks the end of a chapter for me and the end of a chapter with Daimo. It was a little bit of an emotional day, but it was fun to race, the course was awesome and the people were great. It’s always fun to bike race in Canada. Today meant a lot.”
Wishing he was packing his bike to head to Brazil instead of his home in Bellingham, WA, the American has instead been reflecting back on his journey the last four years.
“It’s been a day and a week that has given me a lot of time to reflect,” said Ettinger. “I’m really proud of what I’ve done over the past four years. I don’t know what the next four years hold, so finishing here today - there was more to it than just finishing the race. Now it’s about getting home, enjoying Whistler and getting some down time.”
The next and final race of the 2016 season for Ettinger will be the Whistler Canada Cup on August 19, one day ahead of the XCO race in Rio.
“It will be a fun weekend in Whistler,” Ettinger said. “A lot of friends will be there. It’s two days before the Olympic race, so not the place I'd hoped and worked to be, but I’ll be riding in the alpine on Sunday the 21st instead, enjoying a beer on the first day of the off season.”