The Rock Racing team successfully protected the 54-second lead Santiago Botero had gained while soloing to victory on Stage 1 on Friday in Beaumont. Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) finished second overall and Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell Pro Cycling) was third. The result was Botero's first-ever win in the United States and the Colombian also took home the red jersey of best climber in the four-day race.

The Rock Racing team made sure that Redlands was not a repeat of previous weekend's San Dimas race when they lost the lead in the last stage by one second, by controlling the front of the field throughout the race, never letting a rider get more than a one-minute gap.

After his Colavita-Sutter Home team executed a perfect leadout train in the ultimate lap of the five laps of Saturdays' criterium course, Alejandro Borrajo won the field sprint ahead of Tony Cruz (BMC) and Rory Sutherland (Health Net p/b Maxxis).

The last stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the 91-mile (138 km) Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race lived up to expectations as a hard and brutal race.

Unfortunately for a lot of riders, crashes made it even more brutal and eliminated GC contenders early in the race, when a group of about 30 riders crashed on the first of twelve laps in the Sunset loop.

Overall, only 89 riders (of 194 starters) made it across the finish line with only 25 riders making it to the 5 finishing circuits and all remaining riders were pulled off the course and given pro-rated times.

Those caught up in the crash included Toyota-United's Ben Day and third-place François Parisien (Symmetrics). Respective teammates were sent to try and chase back to the main field, but to no avail.

The numerous early crashes and high tempo split up the field into multiple groups, with yellow jersey Botero surrounded by 5 of his teammates in the main group of about 60 riders. Teams with the most riders in the main group also included CAICO, BMC, Toyota-United, Bissell, Health Net-Maxxis and Colavita/Sutter Home.

Earlier attacks were easily neutralized in the first 3 laps of the Sunset lap, when Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) launched a solo attack and Jeff Louder (BMC) bridged up to him before the next lap. The two riders managed to get a gap of one minute to the field, but Rock Racing started slowly to bring it down, with the assistance of the Colombian team, CAICO.

With 6 laps to go, Peter Stetina (Slipstream-Chipotle) joined the duo but Ben Jacques-Maynes dropped back to the yellow-jersey group. Louder and Stetina continued working together for the next 3 laps while the Rock Racing controlled field neutralized attacks from Rory Sutherland and others. The escapees were caught in the last of the Sunset loop laps before the now 25 rider strong group entered the five finishing circuits in downtown Redlands.

The BMC team went quickly to the front but the field swarmed up, and Oscar Sevilla, Botero's last teammate, came to the front to keep the pace high. Chris Jones (Team Type 1) tried a last minute attack but was caught by field whipped into a frenzy by the Colavita/Sutter Home train.

After being delivered by his teammates to be the first wheel around the last corner, Borrajo sprinted to the finish line winning ahead of Cruz and Sutherland.

Santiago Botero (Rock Racing), first place GC classification

"Today the team won, not me, like yesterday, incredible. Tyler Hamilton, sickness, fever, he tried, tried, Sevilla in the final, so strong, all the other riders, Pena, Creed. This team is strong, amazing. I am very happy for Rock Racing, Michael Ball, Mariano, because they trusted us."

(About the gap to the break) "I was relaxed. Lap by lap, no stress, we knew that in the last 4 or 5 laps somebody would attack. Sutherland, a very strong rider, every time that he attacked, we reduced the gap to the breakaway."

(About the final circuits) I knew that we come to the last circuits, we had the same time (big sigh). Relaxed, because it's the first time that I do this kind of race, [before it was] always the time until the end."

Mariano Friedick, Directeur Sportif, Rock Racing

"Basically, I just kept telling the guys that it was okay for them to go as long as they didn't get more than a 40, 45 seconds gap, I wasn't too worried about it, we still had a pretty full team, 5 or 6 guys protecting Santi's lead. From one lap to the next, it was all back together. And that was the plan, for a little group like that to go away and they took at 45 gap and then it came back. It was all together, Oscar was there, Tyler was still there so it was all good."

(Feelings after the San Dimas) "Beautiful, beautiful. I think, we proved that we have a pretty strong team from the beginning of the year, with San Dimas, it's just one of those things, you just move forwards and here we are, just winning Redlands."

Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), second place GC classification

"I crashed about half way through downhill corner. I was about 3 or 4 guys back, Heath Blackgrove went down really hard, he was right behind Freddie (Rodriguez) and just took his backwheel out, and then I kind of hit those two, I was lucky as I had put on the brakes by then. A couple of bike changes, a couple of bruises, but we had five guys crash out today, we didn't win Powerball today or anything but we made most of it. "

(Strategy after losing many teammates to the crash) "It didn't change too much, we just consolidated. I was just fortunate to have a teammate like Chris Wherry and Dominique Rollin because both of them were just calm, just waited for me and escorted me up right back to the group so I just sat back and took an armchair ride. Guys like Chris Wherry are an enormous advantage for someone as high-strung as me because Chris is as cool as a cucumber and I'm not."

(About finished second again) "Coming second behind Botero is not the end of the world. I was disappointed I couldn't follow him the other day (Beaumont stage), not because I underestimated him but because I saw it coming a mile away. I read the race perfectly, I waited an hour and a half for him to ride away from us, it was like watching a movie in the front row that you knew the ending to and it was more like frustrated to be so impotent than anything else. He was just twenty percent stronger than any of us in there and we were all fatigued, the lactates were just creeping in as the stage went on. I think personally I struggled a little bit with the weather, it wasn't real hot but we're coming from Colorado. He's just amazing, he just rode away, that's why he's time trialing World Champion. I think it's going to bring the level up, I could not believe the guns firing today in the race with Rory (Sutherland), (Oscar) Sevilla and what Tyler Hamilton did, I think he was MVP for the day, he had a fever all week, he dug incredibly deep. He's a friend of mine and I was really impressed how big his heart was today for the team, the level just keeps on getting higher in America."

Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell), third place GC classification

(Reaction in the field to Ben Jacques-Maynes break) "Actually there wasn't much of a reaction. I think everybody has a lot of respect for the course because in years' past you never know what's going to happen it's such a difficult course, it's so challenging technically and also climb after climb after climb. I think everybody kind of wants to wait and see what shakes down in the last few laps before they really throw it out there and that was pretty early to be going, so pretty bold."

"Ben was feeling a little bit under the weather today so he wanted to get out there and just give it a shot and see. A stage win here would have been fantastic, unfortunately being higher on the podium than third was probably a little unrealistic for me, so if we could have had somebody on the podium for the stage win..."

"There were guys trying, every once in a while somebody would try and pop across to it, and Rock Racing were having none of it, they seemed pretty adamant about controlling the race even if it was riders that won't necessarily a threat to them on GC, they still chased pretty hard so it was kind of interesting that way."

"The rest of the guys that were still in the field, their whole job was to look after me and they did a great job, in particular, Tom Zirbel today , a couple of time dug me out of a hole and then the team was just fantastic for me. We ended having three of us in the finishing circuit. There were still 5 of us in the big group on Sunset."

"In the five finishing circuits, BMC got in the front and led it out for the first three laps and then they seemed to fizzle out a little bit and Colavita took over and then it really got fast."

Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita/Sutter Home), winner of the stage as translated by his directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre

"The team did a perfect job, they tried to control the lead out, coming in to the last lap, we had three guys out of five, and they just dropped me with 400 meters to go and I just needed to get through the line and put my hands up because the team did an awesome job."

"In the beginning of the race, I felt really bad in the first three or four laps, I started to feel better and better and I realized after three of four times up the hill that I was very powerful and then I was trying to tell the guys on the team to keep the group together for the sprint."

Rory Sutherland (Health Net/Maxxis), second place on the stage

"It's just a quality field, there's so many people out there the whole time. There's a few guys who animate the race, like Ben Jacques-Maynes and Louder at the front, Stetina, Chris Jones had a go at the race, and Borrajo and that's it. No one else was. I know it sounds bad but everyone else seemed to be complacent, Toyota never attacked, it's disappointing that I think people race for second to fifth place, you don't race the race. If I had gotten dropped and attacked a few times then it sucks, but if don't try then you don't actually know whether you can actually win a race, it was an interesting race."

"Rock pretty much sat at the front pretty much the whole day. They had the Caico team riding with them the whole day, that's bike racing. If the team is into a bad position, then you can look into doing something like that."

"I had a really good teammate, Matt Cooke in there and a couple of other guys looked after me the whole time. I didn't know until just now that Cooke actually crashed before and he's got his arm all wrapped up and ready to go get it x-rayed, so the fact that he as in there and lit it up a few times on the climb was fantastic, it was exactly what I needed there. But I missed having Phil Zajicek around."

"I know the circuit pretty well, everybody knows it because of yesterday, we did it so many times. I won on this circuit twice last year, so it is a sprint that suits me and it's all about position, I struggled until three laps to go to find a good position in the group, because it seemed like every team had three of four guys in there, and I was all on my lonesome just trying to find a wheel somewhere. And eventually, actually I got to the right place, coming down, there's a little downhill section in the back, and Tony Cruz was giving me a few bumps which are not necessarily appreciated but I'm not exactly going to fold when somebody does that to me, he lost the wheel coming into the last corner and he couldn't get around the other guy. So congratulations to Borrajo for winning because he let out the sprint and that's how you win the race."

Tony Cruz (BMC), third place on the stage

"For me, it was just to make sure that I was never in a bad position that I couldn't react to the real climbers because the more that I have to spend to chase, the harder it is for me to make it to the finish. Just trying to stay out of trouble and it worked."

"I figured that Colavita or Toyota would be the key team to bring it in, in the last couple of laps, so I just wanted to make sure that I was on either of them. I was just trying to set up on Colavita, Colavita had 5 guys and they were going. Rory Sutherland, I don't know what he was thinking, fighting with me for position when he blew the chance of either of us winning, we gave them the race. "

(About Jeff Louder) "He's got some serious form right now, I can't wait to do the next 3 or 4 races with him because he's definitely going to knock out some more stages and races."

(About being a leader on the BMC team) "I'm still learning, I don't communicate probably as much as I need to but when I see things going on, just try to keep guys calm and focused, some people get too excited, it gets everybody else nervous and it's just more energy spent, just like to keep things calm and in control. If we get in trouble, that's why we're a team, we work together to fix it."

(About the crash) "I heard it, it sounded horrible. There were actually 3 or 4 crashes. One really big one on a right-hand turn where there was water coming down the gutter and we rode full speed into it, and I knew that something was going to happen, so I braked and twenty guys fell in front of me and I just went around. (lucky?) You just have to be smarter than water."

Chad Hartley (Jittery Joe's), caught in the crash on the first lap
"About 30 to 40 riders went down, going up Mateo road. I tried to chase but couldn't make it, the guys at the front were going full gas."

Top 10 Stage Results
  1. Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita/Sutter Home) 3.25.26
  2. Tony Cruz (BMC)
  3. Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis)
  4. Evan Elken (Jittery Joe's)
  5. Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United)
  6. Brent Bookwalter (BMC)
  7. Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's)
  8. Christian Meier (Symmetrics)
  9. Jackson Stewart (BMC)
  10. 1Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing)
Top 10 Final General Classification
  1. Santiago Botero (Rock Racing) 8.22.43
  2. Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United) 0.54
  3. Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell) 1.06
  4. Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) 1.26
  5. Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United) 1.40
  6. Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing)
  7. Luis Alberto Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home) 1.41
  8. Justin England (Toyota-United) 1.47
  9. Tyler Wren (Colavita/Sutter Home) 1.48
  10. Peter Stetina (Slipstream-Chipotle) 1.50
Top 3 Final Sprint Classification
  1. Luis Alberto Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home) 19 pts
  2. Sebastian Haedo Colavita/Sutter Home) 16
  3. Curtis Gunn (Successful Living) 13
Top 3 Final Team Classification
  1. Colavita/Sutter Home 24:42:07
  2. Toyota-United 0.11
  3. Bissell Pro Cycling Team 0.11
All photos copyright by Lyne Lamoureux.