Friday, April 4, 2008

Botero Solos Into Redlands Lead





Rock Racing's Botero Solos To Victory And Into The Overall Lead.
April 4 2008.
Beaumont, Calif. — Rock Racing’s Santiago Botero made the most of his first-ever victory in the United States Friday at Stage 1 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

In winning the 85-mile (138 km) Beaumont Circuit Race, Botero moved into the overall lead, he won the sprinter and the climber jerseys and he scored his first victory since capturing the Vuelta a Colombia last August.

“I am still not on my best form because I have only been training the past five months and I have not yet raced this year,” Botero said. “I wanted to win today for (Rock Racing Team Owner) Michael Ball, who gave me a chance to continue my career.”

Ball, who was one of the first to congratulate Botero at the finish line, said the victory solidifies his vision of making cycling even more exciting by bringing world-class talent to the domestic scene.

“What we did here was what would have happened at the Tour of California,” Ball said. “We were shortchanged and the fans were shortchanged. But there are more great things from this team to come.

“If they allow us to race domestically, you’re going to see results like this time and time again. We have a tremendous amount of talent that has come onto this team to support the guys we had last year.”

Botero, the 2002 world time trial champion and King of the Mountains in the 2000 Tour de France, leads the race by 54 seconds over Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United Pro Cycling). Francois Parisien (Symmetrics Cycling) is third overall, one minute and seven seconds behind.

Botero powered away from a group of five breakaway companions who had been off the front since the second of five laps around a 17-mile (27 km) circuit featuring more than 700 feet of climbing each lap.

The six gained a maximum lead of more than five minutes with about 30 miles (48 km) to go. But the chasing efforts of the Health Net and the BMC Pro Cycling teams trimmed the lead down to 3:10 with only one lap remaining.

Knowing the gap was coming down, Rock Racing Team Director Mariano Friedrick told the 35-year-old three-time Tour de France stage winner to attack.

“Mariano told me this was my opportunity,” Botero said. “He knew I had to get away from Sebastian Haedo because he is a good sprinter and we needed the bonus seconds on the finish line for me to take the lead.”

Botero’s initial acceleration quickly gained him a 25-second advantage over the five that he eventually stretched out to 52 seconds by the finish line. Haedo (Colavita/Sutter Home) finished second and Burke Swindlehurst (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) was third. Rock Racing’s Freddie Rodriguez took the field sprint for seventh place, 1:46 behind Botero’s winning time of 3:18:15.

Rock Racing now faces the task of defending the overall lead heading into the final two stages of the race: Saturday’s 1st Centennial Bank/KWB Wealth Managers Criterium and the Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race. Ball said there will be no repeat of the San Dimas Stage Race last weekend when Rock Racing’s Oscar Sevilla lost the overall lead on the final day criterium by one second.

“We have a very strong team overall – be it sprinting, climbing or time trialing,” Friedick said. “But it’s certainly going to be a fight to stay in the front during tomorrow’s criterium. We’ll work just as hard to defend the jersey as we did to take it.”

Ball said the sight of Botero wearing the yellow, green and red classification jerseys – all at the same time on the podium – whetted his appetite for even more success in what is the first men’s event on the National Race Calendar.

“What I’d love to see is for us to get all of the jerseys,” Ball said. “Freddie takes the sprinter jersey, Sevilla takes the climber jersey and Santiago takes the overall. I’d love to see Santiago, Oscar and one of our other guys in first second and third overall on Sunday. That would make me very happy.”

— RRC—

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