It was time for the sprinters to come out and fight it out on stage 4 of the SRAM Tour of the Gila at the Downtown Silver City Criterium. Favorite going into the race was USA Pro Criterium Champion Eric Young (Bissell) who had already won stage 2 in a bunch sprint, but the other sprinters in the field were going for it. In the end, Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home) took the win ahead of his teammate, brother and leadout man Anibal.
Luca Damiani (Kenda/5-Hr Energy) was third while Young took fourth. No changes to GC as leader Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) finished safely in 11th place with the same time.
As in most crits, the secret is positioning into the final corner.
According to Alejandro Borrajo, the goal is to be either second or third wheel into the corner. “Maybe today, you can also say fourth wheel because it was a headwind but I think we had a very good show. We were the best.” Borrajo told podiuminsight.
The Borrajos took the corner first with Anibal leading Alejandro. Young was third wheel with Damiani right behind him.
“Eric Young get in front of me, between me and the Argentinians. Unfortunately he wasn’t too fast on the last corner and he opened a little bit of a gap. So I pass him but I never caught the first two guys. It was definitely a good effort from all my team. ” explained Damiani.
Young was feeling the hard days of racing in his legs. “You’re coming really fast into that last corner and if you’re tired at all, like I was, then it’s hard to have any acceleration to the line. They went 1-2 through the corner and they went 1-2 at the line.”
For three-quarters of the race, the racing was relatively mellow for most of the field as they went around the 1.04 mile, four-corner rectangle with about 80 feet of climbing on the backside. A few attacks early on and then one lone rider, Marlon Perez (Colombian National Team) was off. Head down, he slowly build up his gap to around the one-minute mark while the UnitedHealthcare squad settled at the front of the field. Bontrager-Livestrong team also put in a rider in the rotation at the front.
“The race was very easy, not too many attacks. The attack was maybe one or two persons in the front. The UnitedHealthcare team take the ride very easy, so it was an easy race.” said Borrajo.
A few riders tried to bridge up to the solo rider but nothing stuck. And then, Bissell had enough and took over the front with 15 laps to go in the 40-lap race.
“We wanted to bring it back eventually, there wasn’t too much of a hurry with just one guy so the team did really well and it was all together at the end. We executed that perfectly, I wish I could have done better.” said Young.
Three laps later, Perez was easily reeled.
The reset button was punched once Perez was caught. “At that point, a bunch of teams tried to take control of the race, Bissell, Unitedhealthcare, sometimes Jamis/Sutter Home movde around and another few breakaway moves but it feels like everybody wanted to string out the field and go for the field sprint. All my team helped me on the front.” continued Damiani.
A few attacks were shut down by UnitedHealthcare until Bissell lined up at the front with three laps to go. The battle for the control of the front of the race was on. As the bell was wrung, Tyler Wren was leading his Jamis/Sutter Home squad up the left side of the Bissell train led by Chris Baldwin.
“We were planning to pass on the last lap and we did.” said Borrajo who was on his teammate Luis Amaran’s wheel. His team took control before the first corner.
“I think Amaran did a great job, he put me and my brother into the last turn, first and second. We want him to make the last climb as fast as he can and he did. We are sprinters but we can also do very well this hard, the real sprinter they have a little more fatigue. So we take the last corner in good position and nobody can pass us.” Borrajo said.
“It was a tough day, I was a little tired. I wish I could have run better than fourth, that’s racing, you can’t win every day.” said Young, who retained his green sprint jersey.
Both the Borrajo brothers saluted their deceased brother Armando as they crossed the line, pointing to the sky.
It was the first win for Alejandro Borrajo this season. “I didn’t race that many races. I went to Mexico in very good shape, but something spicy took me out of the race. In Argentina we don’t have spicy food, the opposite.” he said with a smile. “I was sad because I was in good shape but I recovered very fast so I went to Charlotte, and I was second and then I came here and this is my first win (this year) and I hope not the last one.”
Racing concludes on Sunday with the dreaded Gila Monster. The queen stage is a 103.5-mile point-to-point road race with 9,131 feet of climbing and 8252 feet of descending. Five climbs including the 7-mile long, 1,600 foot Copperas Vista climb of the Gila Cliff Dwelling followed by the dangerous descent with steep grade and blind corners after the turn-around.