By Kirsten Robbins
Health Net presented by Maxxis' newly promoted team director Mike Tamayo validated the team's rumoured budget cutbacks at their recent seven-day training camp held in Solvang, California. Stretching a dollar might seem an anomaly for the four-time NRC championship team because they previously supported a lengthy image of high-class status on the American cycling scene. Fortunately, untrue to hearsay, the well oiled 'green machine' has experienced little to no setbacks, especially when it comes down to their high profile athletes, quality equipment and loaded race schedule.
Mike Tamayo noted that his transition into Health Net's director, successor to Jeff Corbett, who headed the team for five years, happened in the midst of the 2007 season, when Corbett began contemplating an unexpected retirement. "My directing role started evolving and progressing last summer," acknowledged Tamayo, regarding his responsibility for the team during several key events. "We talked about it and I took over more responsibilities by the end of the season, to make a smooth transition into being the head director. He was leading the team in the Tour of California and we started the transition from there, so that by the time we finished the last race in the Tour of Missouri, he handed me the car keys and said 'good luck and have a good season.'"
According to Tamayo, his team withstood financial adjustments because of a six-year strong foundation of sponsors, including Health Net insurance, Cannondale and Maxxis equipment. And the riders and staff are not going without the amenities provided when being a part of a professional team. "I say that because last year we were staying at the Ramada and this year we are staying at a winery and spa in Solvang," said Tamayo at his classic team presentation over fine dining and candle-lit ambiance.
"From an equipment perspective our sponsors are solid. How the budget impacted us, yes we had cutbacks, but they are administratively, internally and within marketing. There are ways we were able to tweak here and there, to accommodate for our budget to be able to have the same solid riders and racing schedule – we are still the same Health Net."
The unintended mismanagement of sponsorship dollars in professional cycling happens without notice, especially when the budget only permits the director to be the manager as well. According to Tamayo, what separates himself from the rest is his ability to forecast the season, not necessarily financially, but logistically. "Being able to think ahead about where you need the staff, equipment and riders to go is a big money saver," said Tamayo.
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