By Kevin Grogan

The biggest cycling race in the world, the Tour de France, should be decided in the next few days.  But Clermont’s Michael Hernandez isn’t concerned about this year’s results.  He is looking ahead to a future Tour de France.  Hernandez just recently mixed it up at the Tour of California earlier this summer where he led the biggest stage race the United States has to offer a few times.  Don’t be surprised to hear a lot more about Hernandez in the years to come when the Tour de France is mentioned.  Hernandez chatted with the Tablet while he was home in Clermont on a three-day break between a cycling training camp and heading to a couple of races in Europe.

Tablet: Early on, you were a member of Lake County Police Athletic League Cycling Team and then on to Orlando Road Club. Always in attendance for the Wednesday Night Lake Louisa Circuit bike races.  What was it like growing up in Clermont as far as the cycling?

Hernandez: As far as Florida goes, Clermont is the best the State has to offer.  At least we have a couple of hills; Sugarloaf & whatnot.  Everywhere else is pancake flat. I  joined that PAL youth team early on and that was cool having a local team in my backyard.  From there went on to ORC, another local club.  Because I stayed fairly local, there was always a lot of support from the cycling community here in Clermont for what my youth teams were doing.

Tablet:  The biggest stage race in the United States is the Tour of California. You were the virtual leader a few days there.  You come from Florida and we see you on TV climbing these huge mountains.  What was that like?

Hernandez:  The biggest advantage of living and training in Florida is the weather.  We get to race year-round; so I have always kind of raced on the front foot.  There are plenty of opportunities to race hard and, while we don’t always have the elevation, we do have more chances than most to compete.  As far as climbing, I travel enough out of state to sharpen that skill and do really hard efforts to simulate the climbing.  I just know that you have to train harder on the flatter roads to compete.

Tablet:  Back at the Lake Louisa Circuit race two Wednesdays back.  Kind of where it all started for you in my opinion.  But now you are “the Man” around here.  How does that feel coming back?

Hernandez:  The local support has always been great here in south Lake; especially some of the older cyclists that have always helped me.  Because I stayed close to home with a lot of my training and racing, it is great to come back to these races and see these guys.

Tablet:  A lot of us are watching the Tour de France right now.  After your results in California, I was hoping you would get picked up on a Tour team.   It didn’t work out this year but maybe soon.  What is your schedule for the rest of the year?

Hernandez: I leave on the 26th of July to go to France for a month with the US National team.  We are doing two races; Tour of Alsace and then the Avenir”. Avenir is pretty much the Under 23 Tour de France.  They call it “the race of the future”.  It lasts 11 days and is the biggest Under 23 race in the world.  A lot of the climbs in the Alps that we’ve seen this week in the Tour de France are in this race I am really looking forward to that!
Tablet:  Fives years from now, where do you see yourself?
Hernandez: Best case the Tour de France instead of the Under 23 version that I have coming up next month.   And obviously before that, finishing up college and getting my degree.   But the Tour de France and some of the other World Tours is very much the end goal.
Tablet:  Talk a little bit about early on; how you got into cycling.

Hernandez: I got into cycling through my brother’s swimming.  My mom watched Michael Phelps win all his swimming medals in 2008.  My brother Jacob joined the FastLane swim team where some of the kids were on that PAL cycling team; so Jacob also started doing that.  I was a little bit of a chunky kid growing up so I started going to his cycling practices and participating to lose weight for football and baseball.  From there, I did some youth triathlons but I loved to ride my bike.  I was hooked and just kept riding my bike a lot.

Tablet:  So much travel as a professional cyclist. Tell us what you look forward to coming home to Clermont?

Hernandez:  After being gone for three months, I came home from Pro Nationals.  Being able to sleep in my own bed was definitely a plus.  But seeing my parents was awesome.  Both of them make a big effort; they traveled out to California and also to both my National events.  They come to all the races they can, but seeing them back here at home with my grandparents and the rest of the family is always so special after being gone so long.

But I spend my whole winter here in Clermont. I do look forward to that downtime here.  Love coming back to ride the training roads I grew up riding the past 10 years.  There is just something special about it; it resets my mind being home.

Tablet:  Your mom Mercy Hernandez is a long-time educator here; she taught my son in 4th grade at Cypress Ridge Elementary.  Talk a bit about why it is so special for her to be your big races?

Hernandez: My mom has supported me through everything. The Tour of California is sponsored by Breakaway from Cancer & Mom battles ovarian cancer.  Being able to write on my race number everyday “I ride for my mom”  really inspired me every day.  They talked about it a few times on the TV broadcast and it was nice that I was able to do a little bit to raise awareness.  It will always be special that I was able to share this race with her.

Tablet:  Finally, what would you tell one of your Clermont neighbors looking to be more active?

Hernandez:  Growing up, I was an angry kid; temper tantrums and just not a happy camper.  Once I started riding my bike that all went away.  Cycling gave me a way to release all that anger and clear my head.  If I was having a rough day, I would just get out and start pedaling under the blue skies.  It cleared my head being out there.  When you make the effort to exercise, everything else follows suit in your life.

Kimberly and Kevin Grogan

Kevin Grogan is a contributing sports writer for the. South Lake Tablet. Kevin and Kimberly are owners of Dash-Sports   

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