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Merco Cycling Classic - NE

USA, February 28-March 1, 2009

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Stage 2 - March 1: Men's downtown criterium, 50 laps/40 miles

Rock doubles the love in Merced

By Kirsten Robbins in Merced, California

US national criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati proved his pedigree by out-kicking a fast field in the last 200 metres to take his first victory of the 2009 season at the Merco Classic Grand Prix. His Rock Racing teammate, Justin Williams, followed by a slim margin to take second place ahead of Argentina's Ricardo Escuela of Team Type 1.

With 140 starters lining up in Merced, the Merco Classic Grand Prix was a chance for Bahati to 'get on with the job', given he had experienced a turbulent off-season. "There has been a lot of negative press about our team in the last months," said Rahsaan, who believed the odds of winning were in his squads favour given they fielded two national criterium champions.

Predicted rain held off for the men's 50 lap event making the race an exciting spectacle for hundreds of fans who came out to enjoy the racing. "I think this is a great way for us to come out and show places like Merced that we are here to compete and just do what we love to do. I really want to thank everyone for hanging out and watching us go around. I'm just excited to have everyone out here supporting us."

Rock's pair of national criterium champions - Bahati the pro champ, Williams the amateur champ - made their way trough the chaotic peloton like a couple of pinballs and onto the back of team Bissell and Colavita/Sutter Home's well-organised lead out trains in the closing laps. The jostling continued when lead out riders began peeling off to make room for their faster sprint talents to start the final kick. Williams rounded the last corner out front with Bahati on his wheel, creating a small gap on the right for Bahati to squeeze through and claim victory.

"Rashaan is always guiding me and asks me how I'm feeling in the races so we communicate well," said the 19-year-old Williams. "He finds me in the races and tells me what to do. Normally I just follow him around. The guys out here know I'm younger but I'm working my way up. I didn't expect us to get first and second - we were a little scrambled coming in with one lap to go. I took it wide out of the last corner and then realised he [Bahati] was on my wheel. It just worked out for us today."

Third place on the day, Escuela, was without teammates and relied on his savvy pack skills to slide into a position to contend the sprint. Out of the last corner, the Argentine started his sprint first but the Rock Racing duo caught and passed him within the last 50 metres.

"I'm happy with this result today," said Escuela. "My teammates are all racing in the Vuelta a Mexico but I hadn't been feeling too well, a little sick, the last few weeks so I stayed home. I've been able to get in some good training so far."

Bissell proved to be the most aggressive team of the day. Their relentless attacks were diligently marked by riders from BMC, La Grange, Webcor, Colavita/Sutter Home, California Giant Berry Farms and Rock Racing. A newly reshuffled front group emerged each lap that contained one or two of the aforementioned teams. However, without the right combination of committed break away riders all escape attempts were reeled back in.

"I think having Justin and I here sort of killed every break," said Bahati in relation to the number of top notch sprinters that represented each breakaway attempt. "We were in a win-win situation today because we had a small team. All the teams had great riders here, that's the beauty of racing. You never know what will happen. It was our goal was to force a field sprint today and we also wanted to give our younger riders on the team a chance to be represented in the breaks today."

Several crashes marred the men's race including that of Justin Fraga (Webcor) whose fork snapped on impact. He was believed to have suffered bruised ribs. Meanwhile, Rock Racing's valuable lead out riders Sterling Magnell and Danny Finneran were involved in an untimely accident on the last lap.

The Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic will continue at the Foot Hills Road Race held in Snelling on Sunday. The men will complete five laps totaling 192 kilometres through the notorious orange groves of California's Central Valley.


1 Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing Continental Team)        1.21.56
2 Justin Williams (Rock Racing)                               
3 Ricardo Escuela (Tim Typed)                             0.01
4 Jackson Stewart (BMC Pro Cycling Team)                      
5 Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking)    
6 Michael Sayers (Amgen/Giant Masters Cycling Team)             
7 Chad Beyer (BMC Pro Cycling Team)                           
8 Cody O'reilly (Bissell)                                     
9 Chris Hipp (Labor Power)                                0.02
10 Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking)         
11 Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia)                       
12 Ignacio (Iggy) Silva (Rock Racing)                         
13 Fabrice Dubost (Webcor alto velo)                          
14 Mark Santurbane (California Giant -Specialized)            
15 Alexi Martinez (Kahala La Grange)                          
16 Jason Lowetz (Team Bearclaw)                               
17 David Fuentes (Battley Harley-Davidson/Sonoma)             
18 Paul Mach (Bissell Pro Cycling)                        0.03
19 Joao Correia (Bissell Pro Cycling Team)                    
20 Jorge Alvarado (Kahala La Grange)                      0.04
21 James Badia (Webcor/Alto Velo)                             
22 Luis Amaran (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking)             
23 Robert Macneill (Webcor/Alto Velo)                         
24 Keck Baker (Battley Harley-Davidson/Sonoma)                
25 Lucas Binder (ZteaM)                                       
26 Eric Losak (VRC-MS Society)                                
27 Dillon Clapp (Bishop's Peak / Art's Cyclery)           0.05
28 Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling Team)             
29 Jan Weissenberger (Active Athlete/Squadra Ovest)       0.06
30 Bob Newman (Pacific State Bank Cycling Team)           0.07
31 Andres Gil (Pacific State Bank Cycling Team)           0.08
32 Keith Szolusha (Pacific State Bank Cycling Team)       0.09
33 Jan Diemont (Arete' Racing)                                
34 Mack Chew (Wells Fargo Racing Team)                        
35 Peter Graf (Webcor/Alto Velo)                          0.10
36 Bo Hebenstreit (Bike Religion)                             
37 John Van Dyke (Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racin)             
38 Nate Freed (wells fargo team)                          0.14
39 Paul Penn (ZteaM)                                      0.15
40 Andy Goessling (Team Precision)                            
41 Dustin Diede (Davis Bike Club)                             
42 Chris Stastny (NOW-MS)                                     
43 Peter Rennie (Webcor AV)                                   
44 Neil Harrington (California Giant -Specialized)            
45 Jared Barrilleaux (Above Category Racing)                  
46 Chris Turner (Webcor/Alto Velo)                            
47 Rand Miller (SJBC/SugarCRM)                                
48 Chris Wire (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking)              
49 Guido Palma (Bike Religion)                                
50 Albert Gonzales (SLO Nexus - Arbor Home Mortgag)           
51 Tyler Wertenbruch (SLO Nexus - Gym One)
52 Taylor Tolleson (Pacific State Bank Cycling Team)          
53 Todd Hennings (California Giant -Specialized)              
54 Dirk Copeland (Bissell Pro Cycling)                        
55 Timothy Farnham (California Giant -Specialized)            
56 Osvaldo Olmos (California Giant -Specialized)              
57 Jesse Moore (California Giant -Specialized)                
58 John Hunt (Team Clif Bar)                              0.25
59 Aaron Beardsley (Above Category Racing)                0.28
60 Shaun Harless (Wells Fargo Racing Team)                0.30
61 Zack Sober (Stevens Bicycle Racing)                    0.31
62 Aaron Cox (ZteaM)                                      0.32
63 Justin Laue (ZteaM)                                        
64 Nathaniel English (Team Bearclaw)                      0.38
65 John Mckeen (SAN FRANCISCO, CA)                            
66 Hendrik Pohl (Team Clif Bar)                               
67 Mark Shimahara (Chico Corsa PB Sierra Nevada B)            
68 Michael Cordova (SAN FRANCISCO, CA)                        
69 Benjamin Lyon (Santa Clara, CA)                            
70 Jeff Williams (HDR p/b Lombardi Sports)                    
71 Vince Owens (Bike Religion)                                
72 Scott Moore (NOW - MS Society)                         0.39
73 Spencer Smitheman (Bissell Pro Cycling Team)               
74 Sheldon Deeny (California Giant -Specialized)              
75 Adam Switters (The Olympic Club)                           
76 Chris Coble (Unattached)                                   
DNS Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking)      
DNS Aaron Olson (Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking)            
DNS Jonathan Garcia (BMC Pro Cycling Team)                    
DNS Scott Nydam (BMC Pro Cycling Team)                        
DNS Russell White (Davis Bike Club)                           
DNS Alex Wick (Davis Bike Club)                               
DNS Kevin Klein (KLEIN Real Estate)                           
DNS Steven Reid (SugarCRM)                                    
DNS Patrick Mclaughlin (Wells Fargo Racing Team)              
DNS Shawn Rosenthal (ZteaM)                                   
DNF Paul Sumner (Adobe/HDR p/b Lombardi Sports)               
DNF Ryan Eastman (All Sport-Team Swift)                       
DNF John Tzinberg (Bike Religion)                             
DNF Pat Caro (Bike Religion)                                  
DNF Gideon Massie (Bike Religion)                             
DNF John Wolzmuth (Bike Religion)                             
DNF Omer Kem (Bissell Pro Cycling)                            
DNF Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling)                      
DNF Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling)                  
DNF Jd Bergmann (BPG)                                         
DNF Patrick Briggs (California Giant -Specialized)            
DNF James Mattis (California Giant -Specialized)              
DNF Keith Miller (California Giant -Specialized)              
DNF Steven Reaney (California Giant -Specialized)             
DNF Brandon Trafton (Central Valley Cycling)                  
DNF Yacov Spivak (Chico Corsa Cycling Team)                   
DNF Nick Schaffner (Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racin)           
DNF Charlie Alexander (Unattached)                            
DNF Graham Howard (Bissell)                                   
DNF Danny Finneran (Rock Racing)                              
DNF Judd Van Sickle (Rocknasium)                              
DNF Jason Seaver (Team Bearclaw)                              
DNF Josh Rennie (Team Clif Bar)                               
DNF Eric Walle (TEAM CLIF BAR Cycling)                        
DNF Dean Laberge (Team Specialized Racing)                    
DNF Justin Fraga (Webcor / Alto Velo)                         
DNF Chris Crawford (Webcor/Alto Velo)                         
DNF Graham Simpson (Webcor/Alto Velo)                         
DNF Brian Buchholz (Webcor/Alto Velo)                         
DNF Billy Crane (Webcor/Alto Velo)                            
DNF Ryan Prsha (Webcor/Alto Velo)                             
DNF Colby Elliot (Pista Palace)                               
DNF Randy Bramblett (Village Peddler)                         
DNF Micah Choteaux (Grent Eagle)                              
DNF Jenson Lee (LGBRL)                                        
DNF Nick Theobald (SJBC/SugarCRM)                             
DNF Paul Kundrat (Wells Fargo Racing)                         
DNF Andrew (Touchstone Olympic Club)                          
DNF Sterling Magnell (Rock Racing Continental Team)           
DNF Stephen Pelaez (NorCal Elite Cycling)