In our Basecamp Bellingham series, we are sharing stories about talented local athletes who choose to call Bellingham “home”.
Stephen Ettinger is proud to refer to himself as a professional cyclist. “I have raced road bike, enduro and cyclocross, but cross-country mountain biking is my main rodeo,” he says. He is a five-time national champion and competed at the Pan American Games in 2015, winning the bronze medal in the cross-country event.
While Ettinger grew up in Cashmere, Washington, he has called Bellingham home since 2015. He also runs his own business, Cascade Sport, to help other athletes achieve their goals. He is a jack-of-all-trades and is currently working with many organizations throughout Whatcom County.
“The thing that I appreciate most about Bellingham is how low-key the vibe is around here,” Ettinger said. He has fallen in love with the outdoor recreation scene of Bellingham and is proud to call this area home. Living in a city packed with hiking and biking trails, while being surrounded by water and mountains, he’s excited to be a part of this outdoor community.
Ettinger studied Human Health and Performance at Montana State University. After graduating in 2011, he signed his first professional contract with BMC Racing, and moved to Switzerland to live with and compete against the best mountain bikers in the world. He narrowly missed the Olympic Team in 2012, his lack of experience as an an elite rider being cited as the reason behind taking a different athlete. He spent the following three years training.
Ettinger’s experience is vast. He won the National Championships in 2013 and 2014, along with other impressive international wins, and established himself as America’s top rider. Seeking better training grounds, and with a desire to be back in the Pacific Northwest, he relocated to Bellingham in the winter of 2015 and immediately fell in love with the trails and community.
“The move seemed to pay off, with Stephen coming into 2016 flying, winning his first set of races in California, landing on the podium at Pan American Championships and finishing inside the top twenty in the Spring World Cups,” says the Terrain Gym athletes page, where you can also watch a training video about him on his quest to join the Olympic Team.
Ettinger’s coach is Jason Jabkinski, with S.E.T. Coaching.
“I’ve had the chance to work with some of the coolest people in the industry like Focus Bikes, Clif Bar, Shimano, and more,” says Ettinger. His sponsor list is long and also includes Oakley, Giro, Stages Cycling, Fox, Terrain Gym, Kenda Tires, Violich Farms, Domestique Foundation and Riverfront Wealth Management.
There are many reasons why he is drawn to the Bellingham area. He loves how accessible it is to the North Cascades National Park since he grew up around that area. He also loves how easy it is for him to ski in the winter time, do trail running during the summer and fall, and catch up on backpacking when he can.
“The community loves to be outside – whether it’s on the water, on their mountain bikes, or up in the Cascades skiing or hiking. Everyone just loves it and does their thing. And at the end of the day, everyone around here loves to get together for some good food and good beer afterward,” Ettinger said.
His go-to spot for mountain biking in Bellingham is heading to the Chuckanut Mountains and Galbraith, or shredding trails around Mount Blanchard. “I really think that Blanchard has some of the best trails XC trails that we have,” Ettinger said.
Ettinger has also chosen to dive back into the Pacific Northwest’s cycling community by being involved with the March Northwest Youth Ride program and the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. He is also still heavily involved as a member of the Board of Directors at USA Cycling.
“The riding community here is fantastic, which has to lead to incredible trails and a progressive attitude toward new trail development,” he said.
While he’s in between rides, you can catch him at Burrito King or soaking up tasty treats from Lafeen’s Donuts. “Nothing hits the spot after a big trail ride with friends like a cold Rainer and a shredded beef torta, but nothing satisfies better during a cold, wet, road ride like warm coffee and a doughnut midway through,” Ettinger said.
One of his favorite indoor activities is catching a good show in downtown Bellingham, at the Wild Buffalo. And you can always count on his summers being defined by jumping off the pier in Fairhaven, exploring the North Cascades Mountains or soaking up time in his backyard.
You can read more about his background and future interests: Cascade Sport/Bio.
Q & A with Mountain Biker and Trainer Stephen Ettinger
Do you have pre-race rituals?
Stay relaxed and control only what I can.
What do you take with you on rides?
A positive attitude and stuff to get myself home.
What got you into the sport?
My dad originally got me onto the trials, but having friends who rode is what got me into racing.
Where do you train in Bellingham?
Most of my riding happens on the Chucks or Galbraith, although I think Blanchard has the best XC trails in the area. It’s just a bit harder to get down there. All of my strength training takes place at Terrain Gym with Tonia.
What is your favorite Bellingham beverage?
That Aslan sour… the name eludes me.
Where is your favorite place to place in Whatcom County?
Anywhere off Hannegan Pass or on the north side of Baker.
What superpower would you have if you could have any?
Flying, no question.
Something that we wouldn’t know about you?
I am applying to medical school.
What do you do on your spare time?
When I am home, I try to spend some time in the garden and trying to be more involved in Bellingham Mountain Rescue.