After his small 3-man break lapped the field with only two laps to go, Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita-Sutter Home) won the chaotic sprint ahead of Chris Horner (Astana) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell).

"To the last corner, I was in third wheel with two teammates ahead of me, I looked back and saw that none of the other two guys were close, so I relaxed a little bit the last 50 meters and enjoyed the win." said Borrajo.

The Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic race has a long rich history and denotes the opening of the California road racing season. While this year the race is not part of the National Race Calendar (NRC), teams such as Rock Racing, Bissell Pro Cycling, California Giant Cycling Team and BMC chose to send squads to hone in their form for the
upcoming season.

A field of over 95 riders took the start of the 50 laps, 40 miles course in downtown Merced buffeted by winds, and attacks started immediately from the get go.

The successful break was made right after a prime and Horner just kept riding hard, and a group of nine splintered from the field. The break included Colavita-Sutter Home duo Borrajo and Tyler Wren, Bissell's teammates Jacques-Maynes and Richard England, Kayle Leogrande (Rock Racing), Elite Mens National Criterium Champion Daniel Holloway (VMG), Adrian Garrits (Kahala-LaGrange) and Canadian national road champion Cameron Evans (Symmetrics).

"There was a prime and I just kept on riding hard right after the prime, and it split to the nine of us and I did a couple of hard laps on the front and then everyone did a really good job of rotating through. I think the break had pretty much all the strong guys in it, everyone was comfortable and was working well together." said Horner.

The break rode well together and stayed ahead of the chasing field led in turns by the California Giant Cycling Team and Rock Racing Team.

The chase

Then dissension hit the break, with riders attacking for the numerous primes.

"And then one guy started getting a little greedy for the primes, the group gave him two, and then he started going for three and sprinting, and then it was like if you're going to do that, then we're just going to start attacking each other, and that's what happened. With Ben there, and myself, and Colavita guy (Borrajo) then it was strong three of us and once we got a little bit of a gap then it was on from then on." said Horner.

"We were rolling good then dissension crept in, the attacks started. It was basically two attacks and then we were gone. Chris goes, everyone is like 'what do I do'" said Jacques-Maynes.

With thirteen laps to go, the group of three riders, Horner, Jacques-Maynes and Borrajo started increasing their lead ahead of a chasing group of six remnants of the break followed by the peloton.

Under the impetus of Horner, against the wishes of his breakaway companions, the trio started to catch up to the field.

"We were rolling pretty good, I saw with about seven laps to go, we were just seeing the field but we weren't going to catch them I didn't think especially as Borrajo started easing up so I started easing up, Chris has other options, he's the only guy strong enough to do the work of three men and drive the whole thing down. " said Jacques-Maynes.

Horner wanted to catch the field to cause chaos for the finishing laps. "I like the chaos of the sprint, I don't really like it when I'm on the same lap as everybody but when I'm one lap up and all I have to do is follow a good sprinter's line then that's perfect. The only problem is that the other 2 guys didn't want to so I have to do two or three laps on my own to close up the gap on the back and then unfortunately I think I closed it with three to go and I just couldn't get that recovery to get to the front in time."

With 5 laps to go, Holloway and Evans tried to go at it alone and stayed away until the final corner.

The field absorbed the final riders of the original breakaway and the trio caught the field with less than three laps to go, and started to work their way through the field.

On the final lap, a frustrated Jacques-Maynes was caught behind a crash. "It was basically the three guys trying to work their way through guys that were getting popped, and then, people got aggressive in the little chicane, two guys crossed wheels, started crashing, crossed my wheel, I would have turned straight into a barrier and everyone crashed into me so, that was with half a lap to go."

Horner was happy with the chaos and just wished that the catch had been a lap or two before. "You just want that chaos and I wanted to be able to hop on like a Bahati's wheel to the sprint. If maybe I would have caught one lap before it could have been different because I would have been fresh, the other two guys were sitting on my wheel with two or three before we caught so they have a full five laps of rest so when we caught the back end of the field, they were a little bit fresher to go through the field and I was a bit kind of red. It didn't quite work out to plan but for sure I wasn't going to win it if we come three guys out of the last corner, it's too clean of a sprint, and then they're just going to kill me."

Borrajo pulled ahead of the other two riders and easily crossed the finish line ahead. "I felt very good in the first breakaway, I was trying to watch Horner because I know the level of rider he is, and as soon Horner moved, he jumped away and made a break of three. I felt good, I knew that I was faster than the other guys."

Horner still sick from Tour of California, was enjoying the sunny day in the Central Valley and going back to his roots of crit racing. "I've done this race many, many times, I grew up doing these races. I've been a crit rider for my whole life more than anything. If you grew up in the States, that's what you are, if you don't ride crits then you don't make a living."

Final podium (l-r): Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Alejandro Borrajo (Colvaita-SutterHome), Chris Horner (Astana)

Top 10 Results
  1. Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light)
  2. Chris Horner (Astana)
  3. Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling Team)
  4. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light)
  5. Keven Lacombe (Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast)
  6. Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light)
  7. Brian Bosch (Sierra Pacific Racing)
  8. Andres Gil (Pacific State Bank Cycling Tea)
  9. Aron Gadhia (Kahala La Grange)
  10. Justin Williams (Rock Racing)
All photos copyright Lyne Lamoureux.

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