By Kirsten Robbins
The Redlands Bicycle Classic is set to kick off on Thursday, March 26, in California. The event sets the stage as the first North American Racing Calendar (NRC) for the men and marks the second nationally-ranked event on the women's calendar while serving as the first event of the Women's Prestige Series.
More than 200 men are battling for the yellow jersey. The defending champion, Santiago Botero will not be returning to claim a second consecutive victory. The Colombian rider retired from cycling at the end of the 2008 season. There is a high caliber of competition ready to take his place.
Floyd Landis is one stand-out rider making a long awaited debut onto the NRC scene since returning to the sport following a two-year suspension. Landis led his California-based team OUCH p/b Maxxis at the Tour of California and will continue his leading role at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
His teammate Rory Sutherland placed second last year and will be looking to improve to the top spot on the podium this time around. Other riders capable of taking the overall victory include Pat McCarty (OUCH p/b Maxxis), Ben Day (Fly V Australia p/b Successful Living), Jeff Louder (BMC), Darren Lill (Team Type 1), Luis Amaran (Colavita-Sutter Home), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Calob Manion (Rock Racing), Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefits Strategies), Peter Stetina (Garmin-Holoweko Partners-Felt) and Jonny Clarke (Jelly Belly).
Riders vying for one day victories from a field sprint include US National Criterium Champion Rhassan Bahati (Rock Racing) and his teammate (Justin Williams), Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia p/b Successful Living), Andrew Pinfold (OUCH p/b Maxxis), Brad Huff (Jelly Belly), Frank Pipp and Kirk O'Bee (Bissell).
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