Peter Stetina finished in 10th place for the 98th edition of Milano-Torino Named Sport, a race held over 186 kilometers that culminated with two ascents of the steep road to the Basilica at Superga.
There was no hiding on the Superga, a climb with an average gradient of 9.1% that peaks at 14% midway and has long stretches of 10% - in one word: cruel.
The first ascent made quick work of catching the day's four-man breakaway that contained Gregory Rast and cutting the peloton to a group of 25 by the top with 19.5 kilometers remaining. From here it was a twisty descent leading into a flat road that looped around to tackle the grueling uphill again, this time diverting to the finish line.
Stetina, granted a rare leadership role, made the initial selection, and still had energy and legs left for the second go, capping off his teammates work with a top 10 in a one-day race with arguably one of the toughest finishes on the UCI calendar.
"I gotta be content with today, especially with looking how I came out of the Vuelta and with Lombardia and China on the horizon - it's nice to have something to show for the long season," Stetina said. "I got the leadership opportunity because Bauke (Mollema) wanted to focus for Lombardia, and when I get my chance in Europe, I need to take it. The guys were super in working for me; they protected me all day. They really believed in me, and that was special, and I needed to pay them back for that."
With Mollema taking a back seat until Saturday's final Monument, Stetina cast aside his usual support role and showed he still had something left in the tank after a long season of domestique duties.
"Kiel (Reijnen) actually made sure I was the first guy into the bottom of the climb, and we almost crashed, but we made it [through to] number one," he added, smiling about the sideways sliding two-wheel save by Reijnen the first time into the Superga.
"Then it just became a race of attrition and selection the first time up, and the second time there were a few attacks at the bottom, and a few guys got up the road like Uran and Yates. I actually was feeling pretty good and was able to move with Quintana, Poels, and Pinot and trade blows with them for a bit. Then with 1.5K to go, it became a Vo2 max effort to the top: every man for himself."
Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) proved the strongest, pulling away on the steep gradients to take a solo win as riders struggled one by one across the line behind him.
Stetina came across in 10th place, a more than respectable result for the Superga, a gnarly climb of truth.
Revealing his true persona, Stetina deflected from his effort and instead heaped praise on the teamwork:
"It was nice to have Greggy in the break so basically we were able to stay ahead of the race all day, so we never had the pressure to pull in the peloton and just took our position [in the front] when we needed to in the last minutes. It was good to always have our foot in front of the race instead of chasing from behind, and that's how we keep delivering as a team. We have to keep this momentum going forward into Lombardia," he concluded, already thinking about the next race.