By Kirsten Robbins in Redlands, California
Chris Baldwin is prepared to defend Rock Racing's title at the Redlands Bicycle Classic set to begin on Thursday, March 26 in Redlands, California. He placed second in the previous year's race, while riding for the Toyota-United team, to the now retired Santiago Botero.
Baldwin arrives at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in good form after placing third in last weekend's San Dimas Stage Race. However, he noted Rock Racing's somewhat green roster for this year's event.
"I feel good going into this race," Baldwin said. "I think we are bringing a younger team to the race this year and it's exciting to have them come along so well."
Rock Racing will field an eight-rider team, including Cesar Grajales, Mike Creed, Caleb Manion, Danny Finneran, Sergio Hernandez, Rahsaan Bahati, US elite national criterium champion, and Justin Williams, US amateur national criterium champion, in addition to Baldwin.
"For some of them this will be their first Redlands," Baldwin continued. "It has always been an important race and the kick off to the Nation Racing Calendar (NRC) season. We have a lot of speed with Bahati so we can expect good stage results from him."
The Redlands Bicycle Classic leader's jersey has historically been tossed around during the stages until the final day at the Sunset Circuit Race. "There are really fun courses and I think that having two big, open circuit races makes it difficult," said Baldwin, who believes that Sunset is hard, but not hard enough, to shake up the top overall contenders.
"A break succeeded on the circuit races last year and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens again," he continued. "I think it will come down to the best time trialist's result out of the breakaway riders."