We recently caught up with Sergio Hernandez as he prepares to ride the Amgen Tour of California for the first time. Sergio currently rides for Jelly Belly pb Kenda and is known for his aggressive, attacking style. He previously rode for Rock Racing for three years and came up through the NOW/MS Society program.
SoCalCycling.com: How did you get into riding bikes and racing?
Sergio Hernandez: As early as I could remember I always had a love for the bike. My dad use to race Motocross, so I use to set up ramps in my backyard and pretend I was racing. That pretty much led to me being a bmx kid and I later got a job at a local bike shop, Circle Cycle in Torrance, Ca. Somehow the roadies at the shop tricked me into getting a road bike and putting on a fruity cycling kit. It’s been history ever since.
SoCalCycling.com: What are some of your goals for the 2011 season?
Sergio Hernandez: Win, win and win, but I’ve been having a bit of a slow start so far, haha!
SoCalCycling.com: Being Hispanic in the US Pro peloton, have you seen a surge in Hispanic riders?
Sergio Hernandez: Sadly, no. I’ve seen a lot of young talented rider’s in the Junior ranks locally, but for some reason most tend to give it up. I think it’s the culture and mentality that once you graduate high school you go to work and start a family. There are definitely some future prospects, but I think that Freddy Cruz and I represent the Hispanics in the US Pro peloton at the moment?
SoCalCycling.com: As a rider of the turbulent Rock Racing Team, what were the highs and lows when you were riding for them?
Sergio Hernandez: The highs were being on a team with a great group of guys, also the valuable experience of riding for guys like Francisco Mancebo, Victor Hugo Pena, and Tyler Hamilton. The “Rock Star” mentality was pretty cool too!
The lows were not knowing if I was going to get paid every month and many other things, the list can go on! I try to just look at the positives and am grateful for the 3 years I was there.
SoCalCycling.com: When the Rock Racing team folded how did that effect you and your racing?
Sergio Hernandez: I took it really hard because the team finally looked like it was about to get some structure and was upgrading to a Pro Continental status for 2010. The program was going to consist of mostly European racing and I thought I had finally reached my goal and dream of racing there. That excitement only last so long and the lack of communication between the team started, I slowing started hearing what was going on in the press. It was too late to sign for any other team at that point. I stopped riding and considered quitting, but luckily my old club team NOW/MS Society offered me a spot which turned out really good. They got me motivated to keep going!
SoCalCycling.com: How did the Jelly Belly program come about for you?
Sergio Hernandez: I had been talking with them for a couple of years but nothing ever came about. Then when I was left out of a job I let them know that I was available. I had some good results in the early season and Danny Van Haute called me in June and said he had a spot for me. It was all pretty easy and most of the guys on the team were already good friends of mine so it was a super easy transition.
SoCalCycling.com: How is Rock Racing and Jelly Belly different from one another on how they they run there programs?
Sergio Hernandez: Rock Racing lasted 3 years with a huge budget and Jelly Belly is going on its 13th year with a fairly small budget, haha. I’ll leave it at that.
SoCalCycling.com: Can you see yourself racing in Europe if the opportunity was there?
Sergio Hernandez: Yes of course!
SoCalCycling.com: Coming from a tough childhood, how has cycling helped get you where you are today?
Sergio Hernandez: I am truly doing what I love and following my dream! I now know that you don’t have to be a victim of your environment and all it takes is to show a underprivileged kid running with a the wrong crowd something cool like cycling to change their life. A great example is my friend Rahsaan Bahati, he is already doing something great and helping kids with his Foundation (Bahati Foundation). That’s something I’d like to do later down the road, give back especially to the young Hispanic community.
SoCalCycling.com: What advice would you give to aspiring pros coming up through the amateur ranks?
Sergio Hernandez: My advice would be to race your heart out and do everything possible to get noticed by your local Pro’s. I was always trying to get into the breaks in the local crits and most times would get dropped, eventually I’d stick them and get top ten’s. Another tip would be to get on a well organized developmental type team that can help point you in the right direction.
SoCalCycling.com: Did you make the roster for the AMGEN Tour of California team?
Sergio Hernandez: Yes.
SoCalCycling.com: What will your role be for the team at the AMGEN Tour of California ?
Sergio Hernandez: I was told about 2 months ago I would be a part of the team, so everything I have done until now has been in prep for ATOC. Going into the race my role is a GC rider along with Alex Hagman. We don’t expect to give Levi a run for his money, but we won’t be too far behind.
SoCalCycling.com: How do you think the Jelly Belly team will stack up at the AMGEN Tour of California this year?
Sergio Hernandez: We’re a very aggressive and opportunistic team, so we’ll be looking for the breaks everyday. We don’t quite have the super GC guy this year so we’ll be looking for stage wins in this years AMGEN Tour of California.
SoCalCycling.com: What’s your favorite Jelly Belly flavor? I love the “Chocolate Dip” Cherry Flavor!
Thanks for your time Sergio and good luck at the AMGEN Tour of California!
Interview by Frank Sarate, SoCalCycling.com