We recently caught up with Humberto Baca, the Director Sportif for the Bahati Foundation Professional Cycling Team, where he brought us up to speed on his role as Director Sportif, the Bahati Foundation Team’s success in Philly, what the sponsorship outlook and goals are for the Bahati Foundation Team for the remainder of the season and updated us on the impact of the depature of title sponsor OUCH and Floyd Landis.
SoCalCycling.com: Congratulations to the Bahati Foundation Professional Cycling Team for a successful race at the Phiiadelphia International Championships where Cesar Grajales won the KOM Competition and Nathan O’Neil won the Sprint Competition. What did this mean to the team to win these competitions at America’s biggest one day race?
Humberto Baca: Philadelphia was definitely the boost we needed and confirmed the strength of our roster. We had a few race strategies, position Rahsaan for a sprint finish, KOM with Cesar and the Sprint Competition with Nathan. Winning just one would have made for a successful weekend, coming home with two and being the only domestic team to podium made it that much sweeter.
SoCalCycling.com: Your first race as Director Sportif for the Bahati Foundation Team was in Philly, which is America’s Biggest One Day Race, how did that go for you and were there any interesting stories you can share from a Director’s point of view as that race can get pretty chaotic?
Humberto Baca: Actually, my first race as Team Director was Merced followed by San Dimas and then Redlands. Philly was definitely the most exciting so far. It doesn’t take long before the breaks start and the peloton is scattered all over the race course. From a Director’s standpoint it went well, not one problem. The crowd on the Manayunk wall was pure insanity. As soon as the race started the party was on, with beer drinking at 9am!
SoCalCycling.com: Philly can definately get pretty crazy! Did the Team work with inner-city kids on behalf of the Bahati Foundation while in Philly?
Humberto Baca: Yes, we were part of the Cadence Cycling Foundation and Cannondale event on Friday evening. Both Bahati and Cadence focus on inner city kids. For Sunday’s race we held a VIP experience where a group of inner city kids joined me in the team car for a lap in the team car. That was amazing.
SoCalCycling.com: What is your background in cycling and how did you get involved with the Bahati Foundation Professional Cycling Team?
Humberto Baca: My cycling background started with the coaching of Ernie Lechuga who turned me into an Expert Mountain Biker and a Cat 2 on the Road. I started my own team UB Racing for 2004 and 2005 and was Director for two teams at San Francisco’s T-Mobile. I’ve worked closely with Ernie, Chepe Garcia, Caleb Manion and Rahsaan Bahati. When Rahsaan started the Bahati team, I was overwhelmed when he asked me to come on board as Director.
SoCalCycling.com: It was announced prior to Philly that the Bahati Foundation Professional Cycling Team has brought on a new management team to bring on sponsors. Can you tell us about On the Rivet, LLC and what their background and successes are in sports marketing and cycling?
Humberto Baca: On the Rivet, LLC Has come in to garner and secure funds for the team. Their specialty comes in the form of negotiations and contract agreements. They are new to cycling but not to the corporate world.
SoCalCycling.com: Given that it is already mid-season are you optimistic that they will be able to bring on funding for the rest of the 2010 race season or are you shooting for funding for 2011?
Humberto Baca: During a short transition, On the Rivet has been able to fund Philly, Canada’s Tour de Beauce, Clarendon Cup and Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin. They are working on the rest of the year with 2011 in mind.
SoCalCycling.com: That is great news that additional funding has brought on. It has been said that the Team’s title sponsor Ouch pulled out after Floyd Landis was dismissed from the team, leaving a financial void for the Team. Where did the Team’s funding stand before Ouch came on as a sponsor in April? Was the Team counting on donations from fundraising that did not materialize as opposed to sponsorship donations from corporations?
Humberto Baca: I think we all know what Floyd and Dr. Kay’s (OUCH) intentions were when they joined the team, and when the Tour of California denied us entry it ended the relationship. Once the scandal erupted, OUCH no longer had any interest in the team. The team releasing Floyd was our only hope to survive and it did leave a financial void. Up until Ouch joined, the team had already been racing and the riders salaries had been paid. I don’t think there was ever a true sense of security when OUCH came on board, there was definitely a different agenda as we later found out. As with most teams, there are always different ways to generate money for a team, donations and fundraisers are two ways. Funding came through sponsors and corporations.
SoCalCycling.com: It was recently announced that Hilton Clarke has left the Team to ride for United-Healthcare? How will this affect the team dynamic since he was a valuable sprinter for the team? Have any other riders announced that they will be departing?
Humberto Baca: Yes, Hilton has signed with UHC and the team wishes him the best. Fortunately for us, we have a strong roster that includes sprinters Lanell Rockmore, Yosvany Falcon and Phil Mann, and lead out men Matt Rice and Jason Donald. No other riders have left the team.
SoCalCycling.com: What are the Team’s goals moving forward, what races will the team attend for the remainder of the season? How do you see the future of the Team going into 2011?
Humberto Baca: The remainder of the season is a busy one. This weekend we had Clarendon Cup. Next week we split the roster with Tour de Beauce in Canada (home to our sponsor Louis Garneau) and Tour of America’s Dairyland then MBGP. July brings Super Week and then US Pro. We’ve had tremendous support all season that should spring us into 2011 with new sponsors.
SoCalCycling.com: Will the Team try to help Rahsaan Bahati win another title as the US Pro Criterium Champion?
Humberto Baca: Yes, we will be fielding a strong team around Rahsaan in the hopes of regaining the championship!
Thanks for your time Humberto. We wish you and the Bahati Foundation Professional Cycling Team much success! We would love to see Rahsaan bring the Stars ’N Stripes back to SoCal!
Interview by Christy Nicholson, SoCalCycling.com