What's Cool In Road Cycling

Stetina & Bookwalter Get PEZ’d

Rider interview: Two interviews for the price of one as Alastair Hamilton has a very long chat with two of the most experienced American riders on the WorldTour. BMC’s Peter Stetina and Brent Bookwalter were recently in Spain and PEZ had to get all the behind the scenes info on the ‘Super Team’.

Brent Bookwalter turned pro in 2006 with a much smaller BMC set-up than the present incarnation, he has a list of National titles, but more importantly the 30 year-old is a solid and trusted team rider. After two years with Garmin, Peter Stetina joined BMC in 2014 and, like Bookwalter, has become a solid rider to back up any of his leaders. We sat down to get their thoughts on many subjects: Team leaders, cobbles, the Tour de France, Cadel Evans and life in the BMC team.

PEZ: How has the team changed now that Cadel Evans has retired?
Brent Bookwalter:
The absence of Cadel is just another step in the evolution of this team. When I started with the BMC team back in 2008 we were a pretty small ProContinental outfit, mostly Americans with just a small European presence. The arrival of Cadel coincided with a lot of other amazing talents and super stars of the sport, like George and Ballan. That was the first year that we sort of jumped into the next level of the sport and I was really fortunate to be part of that and experience that growth. He gave the team a few absolutely incredible years and gave me some amazing years and races and memories and experiences as well, so I’ll never forget those and I’ll always be thankful to him and it was a huge honor to ride along side him. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t go to the Tour Down Under and do the last few races with him because of my toe injury. But he had a great team around him. Pete (Stetina) stood in for me to keep an American presence. I’ve been in touch with him and he has had a fun time looking ahead, planning what’s next and I think he was motivated for the National championships, Down Under and his Great Ocean Race. Hopefully I’ll see him in the future still, I think we have cemented a friendship and a bond, hopefully, through the races that we have done, that will last and I know I will remember that fondly.

bookwaltertdfBallan, Bookwalter, Hincapie and Cadel.

PEZ: Does it feel like there is a big hole in the team?
Ah, no. I think across the board the team changed a little bit from 2014 to 2015, we have a few new faces. My history with this team; this will be my eighth season, some years it feels like it doesn’t changed at all and the other years you feel like they are growth years where you kind of switch gears and get some fresh faces in, switch up the program and this is one of those years. Obviously with the departure of Cadel and we have a new set of riders. The young guys are really exciting and bring a lot of youth and enthusiasm in. And the other guys like Caruso and Di Marchi are established and proven and approaching the veteran status, they bring a lot of clout to the team.

PEZ: Where do you fit in?
I think I fit in the same way I always have. I have ambitions to grow into a more prominent role in the team. I’m 30 years old now, I’ve done six Grand Tours, I’ve been through a lot with the team and they know they can count on me in a versatile skill set, I’m happy that I can fulfill that role. I keep developing on my own as well, I’m more aware now of what my own capabilities are and I’m still getting better. I have a lot more in me and I’m getting better every year and I’m excited to show that to the team and give them everything I have.

Waalse Pijl 2013 eliteBrent in Belgium

PEZ: Do you think you will get more chances now?
Yeah, I think so. The past year or two this team started to break out of the mold of how we were racing in the previous few years. I think having already started to race in this new style, a more aggressive style, actually bodes well for us, moving on from Cadel’s departure. When you have a guy like him, you have full confidence that he can deliver and he is going to be one of the best, so you line it up, you sort of ride defensively and you know he’s going to throw the big bomb in at the end. So yeah, without him it opens it up, we have already began racing this way and that gives more guy’s opportunities. I think a lot of different guys over the past two seasons have won races. Some guys like myself and Mickey Schär, we got the first wins of our pro careers in the past years. That’s kind of due to our broadening our mentality and opening up our eyes to different opportunities for a lot of different riders.

PEZ: Do you know your calendar?
I will now start with Dubai (Bookwalter finished 12th overall) and probably go to the tour of the Med and some of those French races in the south of France after that.

Peter Stetina: After the Tour Down Under and being part of Cadel’s good-bye squad, I will be heading into Europe for a lot of the spring races. Those are yet to be decided, there are a handful of races. Being the Californian on the team I get looking forward to that (the Tour of California), that gets to be my big goal again for the year and try to better that and it sounds like the course is more climber friendly, compared to last year which was more for the time trial specialist.

peter-stetina-tdu15-620Peter Down Under 2015

PEZ: So is that the big aim for you personally?
Yeah, Cali will be my personal big goal and now that I’m a Californian, I spend so much time there and BMC is in Santa Rosa as well, I’m always excited about that one.

Amgen Tour of California 2014 stage 1Peter Stetina at home in California

PEZ: What are you looking forward to this year Brent?
I’m a little bit more unknown, I don’t have a clear objective and I don’t have a home state race, unfortunately. I live in North Carolina now, in Asheville, so it would be nice to see the Tour of Georgia come back, going even further back; Tour DuPont, that’s were I live basically, Tour DuPont country. But without those I’d really like to go to the Tour again, last year I did the Giro with Cadel. Tejay and I have a good relationship and I’ve proven I can be a good teammate at the Tour before, so I’d love to go back there. But that said the roster at this team is really stacked and they need guys to do the Giro and Vuelta too. They know and I know that part of my value for this team is going where they need me and I’m a guy they can put in a lot of different places. Right now I’m focusing on the early season, the first few races, and getting going and my experience has taught me that the rest will sort its self out.

PEZ: What was your toe injury?
I just had a little accident at home, an off-season accident, not bike related, I wish. Yeah I fractured the toe, right at the joint in the big toe. I had just got back in to training, I’d done a week of riding and a week of training and was about to go full steam into it and that derailed me for a couple of weeks. I lost a couple of weeks to that and now I have to try to be patient. The team has supported me really well through that and didn’t put any undue pressure on me, that was part of the thinking of leaving the Tour Down Under off the program. They didn’t want me to rush back for that and have lingering issues that were going to plague me throughout the rest of the year. I feel really good about the rehab and recovered and I’m back in my normal riding shoe now and my normal walking shoe. I still feel it a little bit, it’s not on my mind when I’m training productively, but it will be a memory in a couple of weeks.

PEZ: What was it you did to your shoe to help?
I did all sorts of things. At first it was really swollen, so I got a shoe and basically just cut out the toe box and then the toe could just stick up and breath. I put a different sole in it and I moved the cleat all the way back on the pedal to take as much pressure of it as possible and I was only riding inside. My goal and visualization was to try and stay motivated and work on one thing at a time. Pedal at low intensity with this weird and new improvised system, then eventually get to the point where I could move the cleat forward again and then get to the point where I could use a normal insole and then get to the point were I could get in a normal shoe and then out with the guys and training and feeling good and getting stronger.

bookwalterttBrent Bookwalter in TT mode

PEZ: Did moving the cleat back not cause a different problem?
No it didn’t. It would have if I had been trying to go out and do thresh-hold intervals and high intensity. I’ve been doing this a long time and my body is synced up for a specific cleat position, but we have a lot of depth to our fitness and riding easy for one hour to two hours at a time. I could do it on a townie bike or a mountain bike with a weird shoe. It keeps the metabolism going and keeps my head sane. That’s been the great thing about this camp; we have had some awesome support in that department from David Bombeke (Osteopath) and his group here. He has checked me and made sure that I’m still straight and that there were no imbalances because of the toe, so I can go forward with the confidence that I’m ready to rock.

PEZ: Is there a difference between working for Cadel than for Tejay?
Yeah, there is definitely. They are clearly different riders, with different experience and different history. They have a different skill set, they have some similarities, but they motivate in a different way and they lead in a different way and inspire in a different way. The standard of excellence, which they both demand is really high, but I would say they ask it of you in a different way and communicate in a different way. I think some of that is shaped by their different experience. Cadel in his first Grand Tour had the pink jersey and almost won the Giro and watched it slip away from him in that crazy bonk day. Then he was podium Grand Tour, podium Grand Tour, podium Grand Tour. Cadel is the consummate professional, he didn’t leave any detail to chance, he researched everything and prepared extremely meticulously and lived as a professional and that was reflected in his racing. He demanded so much from himself and expected the same from his teammates, so at times there were high pressure moments when he has his whole life on the line and I would feel accountable in the same way because I wanted to be there and be part of it and be there for him.

Where as Tejay: He’s still developing and in the past few years he has really developed as a leader and a team captain, he knows how to rally his troops and relate to the different guys and to different personalities.

PEZ: Is he more laid back?
Yeah I would say so. I’ve spent a lot of time rooming with Tejay, he’s a pretty laid back guy.

PEZ: Could that not be a problem in a race situation?
No, I’d say vice versa. I’d say generally he’s a laid back guy, but when you get him in that leaders jersey or you get him at the finish line, when he gets in the game time and he’s fully prepared and when he’s at his best, then he’s the same as Cadel, essentially. He’s putting it all in and I want to be there doing the same for him and hold myself to the same standard. But the fact that I have a good relationship with him, I want to genuinely see him succeed, not only professionally, but also personally, that only goes to enhance that. He probably feels the same way. He’s an awesome guy to hang out with and we have a lot of fun just being around each other.

PEZ: Peter, what is your take on Tejay’s style?
Yeah, Tejay has always been a laid back guy, he likes to lead by example and motivate guys in a very positive manner, he likes the idea of the silent, strong type and that really worked well for us at the Tour last year. That Tour had a lot of adversity, I think he hit the deck more than any other contender and every time it was ‘all hands on deck’ and everyone had to get him back up, chase him back on. We were so proud of his 5th place this year, even though we all believed he was capable of more, it was the fact that we all had to rally around him. It really was an entire team effort just to scrape him into that 5th place because every day something was going wrong. The fact that we all banded together and fought for that, it was cool to be part of.

PEZ: Do you think that last years 5th place meant more than his 5th place in 2012?
I believe that, it was cool. He wasn’t obligated to, but he gave us all a gift at the end of the race. He actually had dog tags made because we went through a war together, so we all got matching dog tags, all nine of us.

sanluis14st2_arredondo-620So close in San Luis ’14

PEZ: How much control does he have over who rides in the Tour team?
I think that’s up to the team management. They always have an eye on how guys are bonding and meshing and they are always aware of the interpersonal relationships because when you are tight you will lay down more for your brother in arms. That’s important in any team work aspect, I think that at the end of the day the management decide the calendars and the riders don’t need the extra pressure having personal roster selections.

Brent: I think there are a lot of guys who want to ride with Tejay and for him because he also likes to see his teammates succeed. He’s not some guy that’s going to resent you for going up the road and winning a stage or getting a result as long as it’s in the best interest of the team and the primary objective of his GC isn’t being compromised. In a perfect World everyone wins a stage and he does his best GC, then there wouldn’t be anyone happier than him. A lot of guys are very eager and ambitious to put their hand up for the Tour because he is a good leader in that sense.

PEZ: What did you bring out of that first Tour?
I got to learn how to deal with the stress a lot better. That is just the Tour and I realize that, at the end of the day it’s the same players, it’s the same guys doing the Giro or the Tour and it’s the same Watts per kilo and all that, but I think the Tour is a whole other animal because you have this stress factor and you have these guys that are all… the tactics all go out the window because all the TV cameras in the World are watching. There will be a guy who will attack when he has no hope and when it makes no tactical sense what so ever, but he will still attack to be on the TV for 15 minutes and everyone will see it and if you are chasing you still have to bring him back, even though he knows he is going for a kamikaze move. So you mix that with everybody riding that two inches closer together in the bunch and that’s when you have crashes start happening. There was a lot of time when all of us were actually just scared riding in the bunch and you are wondering why you do it, but then when you finish you want to do it again. It’s this love/hate relationship, it’s a lot of fun and I can’t believe I’m saying this… but I want to do it again even though I will hate July.

TDFR 2014 - stage -13Peter at the Tour ’14

PEZ: What did you think of the cobbles in the Tour?
I actually enjoyed them a lot, it was such bad weather and Tejay went down in that pile-up at that round-about with Froome and the other guys just before the first sector, I actually got Tejay back up, one of the many times, and I actually did a full-out suicide pull into the first section to save our big classics guys who could then navigate him through the rest of the day. So I went full-gas into the first section and then I pulled off and find a group, I took my time and got to ride the cobbles at the front and actually had a lot of fun, people were still cheering for us and I didn’t fall down or anything, so it was great.

PEZ: Was that the first time you had ridden ‘proper’ cobbles?
Yeah. That’s not cycling, not cycle racing we know, it is it’s own entity in its own sport and I see that now. I appreciate Paris-Roubaix even more for what it is and I also have no desire to do it. You could be a cobbles specialist and not be great at anything else or you could be the Worlds best at everything else and suck at cobbles. Because they are so rough and so primitive they aren’t normal bike handling, bike pedaling style goes out the window. It is its own entity and you need all those special bikes and cars just for that entity, so it’s pretty cool, but in my mind it’s a one off.

PEZ: Should they be in the Tour every year?
Not every year. It has its place because it has its place in French cycling and the fans love it and sport is entertainment at the end of the day. Just like the Strade Bianchi fits well in Italy.

Giro d'Italia 2012 stage 8A young Stetina at the Giro d’Italia

PEZ: The Tour has mountains every year, sprints every year, time trials every year, so why not cobbles?
Yeah, but it depends if they can fit it into the route right. You do have the factor that it is quite a dangerous, unused entity of cycling in stage racing, which is the Tour, so that’s where I would argue against it. The Tour is one thing and Roubaix is one part of French cycling, but it is not ‘normal’ bike racing. They say that the best rider should win the Tour, but being good at cobbles doesn’t mean you are the best rider. It’s a balancing act, but if the fans love it, then it should have its place in there, at the end of the day I guess that’s want it boils down to.

PEZ: Can you make comparisons between Tejay and Talansky?
I know him pretty well (Talansky), I was at his wedding and I’m friends with him, but I’ve only ridden with him in training and went to the same college, we overlapped for a year.

Peter: They are both good guys and are friends.

Brent: I think America, right now, is extremely fortunate to have two legitimate GC contenders to usher the sport into the next generation. They have both already proved they have the ability and capacity at that level and they are similar in many ways, they are definitely uniquely there own persons a well. When you see them in the heat of the moment they both have that fire in their eyes and turn into trained killers. How that comes about is a little different and the person who they are is different.

Peter: I was asked this question last year too. They both have these two qualities, but what makes them famous, basically is: Tejay’s got the motor and talent, not that Talansy doesn’t, Andrew is amazing as well. Andrew has that raw determination, which is why he has the pit-bull nickname. When he gets hold of something he won’t let go until he falls over and dies. Tejay is doggedly determined as well, but that is really their strongest points, that is what I see. Andrew is the pit-bull and Tejay is the motor. Tejay is the silent warrior.

There you have the opinions of two of the top team men to come out of America, We’re sure they will both have their chance this year.


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