Last Thursday we released a preview for our latest #BehindTheStripes installment. Today we pick it up where we left off: in the ‘Stetina Chalet’, Peter's cabin on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. At 6,224ft/1.897m of elevation, it’s the perfect place to for him and American teammate Kiel Reijnen to prepare for the Tour of California.
It's breakfast time, an accomplishment on its own. While Kiel and his wife Jordan, who’s upstairs completing a yoga practice, choose a breakfast of toast, eggs, bacon, cheese and avocado, Pete prefers a low fat, high protein granola with thick Greek yoghurt, raisins and honey.
He doesn’t indulge in caffeine, surprisingly. Decaf coffee for Pete, please.
“I am going caffeine free in these preparatory days before the Tour of California. I have had a lot of mediocre coffee while racing in Europe the last couple of months. I had to have at least three cups to feel any boost. Now I’m skipping my regular morning coffee to break the caffeine circle. I guess you could call it a detox, but when the race comes, I’ll start drinking normal coffee again to charge up in the morning.”
“The Tour of California is going to be tough this year. You have to be ‘on’ every day. There’s the Gibraltar climb at the end of the Santa Barbara stage, but there are several other stages where the race could explode. I like that! It will be a matter of being attentive all the time.”
Pete, a native of Boulder, Colorado, is looking forward to the Santa Rosa stage in particular. Santa Rosa was the city of Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the cartoon Peanuts featuring the characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and is Pete's adopted home. His wife Dyanna, a civil engineer, will stake-out a Stetina exhibit in the streets of downtown Santa Rosa. Pete, smiling: “If the Dutch can have their corner on Alpe d’Huez, then I can have at least this, right?”
Dyanna came up to Tahoe with Pete, Kiel and Jordan over the weekend. But her job obligations in Sonoma country took her back down to Santa Rosa on Sunday night. We’ll see her soon when we all drive down to Santa Rosa.
“Dyanna loves her job and I know she’s great at it. She doesn’t get much vacation, though, so we need to plan carefully. She can’t come out to Europe for the duration of the Spring, for example. Every year we try to take a nice off-season break and that doesn’t leave much time for additional trips to Europe.”
“This doesn’t mean I haven’t earned a break after this. The Tour of California is my big season goal. I’ll be working for the team goals if and when I’m going to the Tour de France.”
“Life at the cabin means having a beer by the lake or by the fire pit every now and then. But not this time… It’s 'all-in'. We’re not taking any chances. The other night Kiel’s wife Jordan had made a terrific green chili. It sucks to not have a beer with that, but California is the big goal, so everything is subordinate to that.”
Kiel in the meantime has started a string of ground exercises: mostly core strengthening, but also several series of squats. We are not the first to coin the term, so here goes: Kiel’s got a wattage cottage, a hard-muscled behind – he is a sprinter after all.
“It’s funny, actually. Yeah, I’m definitely more muscular than Pete, but I haven’t always been like that. I think I will easily slim down once I have retired. I don’t think I’ll put on weight. The muscle mass I have now is clearly all from cycling. Everyone in my family is very slim, especially on my mom’s side.
It’s not easy sailing for a sprinter and a climber to train together, let alone at altitude. Peter’s goal at the Tour of California is the general classification (GC), whereas Kiel will have an eye on the fast stages whether to help team sprinter Niccolò Bonifazio or to defend his own chances. It’s not unreasonable to think their training schedules are incompatible.
Pete: “You’re mostly right, except for the fact that both of us need to put in the necessary hours, so we always take that as the backbone of our training. Today I need to do four hours of training and Kiel has three hours so we can work with that. Then there’s specific work for each of us, so we’ll basically do a big loop together and then we will each go our own way to complete our training.”
Peter’s marching orders for today include 2 x 8 min tempo climbs and 3 x 10 min alternating between 2 minutes of super hard effort and 2 minutes of tempo climbing. “That last series is a simulation of a race situation where you go into the red zone to attack or counter surges, and you teach your body to recover at a high pace,” Pete explains.
Kiel has a different task ahead: he has a series of 40 seconds sprints from a standing start to completion. Training the wattage cottage. It's no surprise that Kiel’s spirit animal is the bear.
The lap around the lake is approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles).
Pete: “The lake lap itself is demanding, plus I can rattle off ten different climbs that are between 10 to 45 minutes in length, so I can pick and choose, depending on what I need for the day.”
“Today we’ll head out north, toward Tahoe City and Truckee. There are two steady climbs that shoot up from the main road that we will use to warm up.”
I'm on a mission to be as frugal with my energy as possible. These are pros after all, and I am clearly not. So I position myself in the wheels as soon as we freewheel down the cul-de-sac towards the main road by the lake. The first thing I notice is how fast they take a corner! After every turn, I need to get out of the saddle to catch back on to the pair. I immediately understand the difference it makes to have these skills when riding in a group.
On the flat lake road, we pass the luxurious estate where The Godfather 2 was filmed. Kiel is half-wheeling Pete, and Pete chides him with a smile. Half-wheeling is a no-no in training; it's as if the other is constantly trying to edge the wheel ahead and push the pace to prove he is stronger.
“When Kiel’s happy, he’s super happy. This is the first sunny day in a couple of days, so we’re excited.”
Kiel responds in his rich, bass voice: “The training is the fun part. I love riding my bike more than anything.”
Pete: “He also gets better whenever he has a housing project on the side, whether it’s carpentry, smoking his own meat or salmon, or renovating the kitchen. Have him chop down a tree and he wins the Tour of California!”
Kiel: “I do love doing stuff around the house. I’d love to have my own garden one day. Quality always trumps quantity for me, especially when it comes to food. I’d much rather have a simple green salad with no dressing if it’s the best. And I’d love it if those greens came out of my own garden. It’s because of how I was raised on the Island (Bainbridge Island). We grew up with local produce. We’ve always felt ‘connected’ to our food, you know? We went mushrooms hunting, fishing and clam digging.”
The tone is set – it's going to be a great ride. I hear plenty of songbirds calling; springtime is evident everywhere. We pass one murmuring creek after another on our way to Tahoe City, all feeding the immense Lake Tahoe, the largest Alpine lake in the country and the second deepest in the USA.
I ask Kiel to return the favor and describe Pete for me.
Kiel: “Intense. Haha."
Pete replies with a smile: “Bi-polar.”
Kiel: “A Boulder granola hippie with an unrelenting…”
Kiel: “I would say an unrelenting drive to get the most our of himself. Pete is tenacious and scrappy, he doesn’t know when too much is too much and that mentality has served him well in this sport. He has a bigger heart than he let’s on though.”
Peter: “Thanks. The hippie part is pretty spot on too. I’d need my two younger sisters to make the perfect hippie, though. I’m the oldest and all about organic food and making my own yoghurt and such. Claire, who's in the middle, is very holistic and into yoga and such. And my youngest sister Kate is an ecologist. She’s very much concerned with the preservation of nature and wildlife.”
As we ride through Tahoe City, we pick up Peter’s buddy Steve, who’s been training with Pete since he discovered the Tahoe scene years ago. “Steve knows every single road around here and he’s been gracious enough to show and share.”
Steve looks as fit as Pete and Kiel. My cornering skills are the least of my concerns when they decide to climb Donner Summit, a 7,056ft/2,151m mountain pass northwest of Lake Tahoe. Kiel, however, promises to stay by my side.
We climb higher and higher, and I devise a plan in which I ask Kiel question after question to keep him talking and the pace tame. The first subject I put on the table is Kiel’s ‘white whale’: the US Pro Championships. He has finished third in four of the past six years, and last year was particularly crushing: Kiel appeared on his way to victory when a late puncture in the last kilometers ended his dream again.
“Yeah… Luck hasn’t been on my side until now, but I’ll keep trying. Of course, it is a huge goal, it would be such a dream to wear the stars and stripes for an entire year.”
Kiel drips with Americana - all things American.
“In no way is America perfect, let’s be honest and clear, but it’s a pretty good place to live. Maybe the best place. We don’t do predestination; we make our own destiny. And I want America to continue to strive for that mentality. But we have to be committed to making it feel that way for everyone who calls America home."
The beauty of climbing is that you eventually reach the top, as long as you keep pedaling. Peter and his friend Steve are already at the roadside lookout, as Kiel and I arrive at the highest point.
The view is literally breathtaking. Donner Lake, just west of Truckee and now far beneath us, looks small in comparison to the majesty of the mountains. The south flank of the rocky mountain ridge bears a long, horizontal scar that stretches as far as the eye can see: it’s a mid 19th-century residue of the Central Pacific Railroad, once built to connect the West Coast to the rest of the United States.
Kiel, the sprinter, and Pete, the climber, rejoice the same over the splendor of this view. Kiel: “I love how us bike riders can all be different and have different body types and what not, but we all do the same job and we keep at it because of views like these.”
Back in the cabin, it becomes evident that cycling is a sport where competitiveness goes hand in hand with discipline. Pete talks about his post-training routines: “There’s little room for improvisation or creativeness when it comes to training. You need to put in the work and have self-control.”
In the time that follows he will upload his SRM power file to his computer, send it to his trainer and share it with his followers on Strava. He will prepare a healthy lunch and eat it while checking emails and browsing through a handful of cycling news sites. Then, it’s time for a long sauna, which helps to improve the body’s capacity to deal with heat and enhances weight loss also. After that, there’s some stretching to be done, sometimes a massage, and more than anything: rest and recovery.
“It’s my power place,” Pete said when we first talked about this #BehindTheStripes story. “Whenever I come here, I seem to come good. I come here to cross all my 'T's and dot all my 'I’s. It’s perfect.”
It's not hard to see that this place is, in so many ways, perfect. A training santuary. I am in awe, a little envious, watching Pete and Kiel prepare the best they can for success from the Stetina Chalet. “Training is the pursuit of perfection, of the best ‘you’ you can be,” points out Pete.
And there is no better place to pursue perfection.
Stay tuned for the Behind the Stripes with Peter Stetina and Kiel Reijnen part 2 - coming soon!
Press officer Tim Vanderjeugd is on a mission to visit the Trek-Segafredo riders in their home environment and give the team's fans a context outside of a competition.