Reigning US National Criterium Champion Rahsaan Bahati captured his third consecutive Manhattan Grand Prix win on Sunday in California - his first race back as a professional with the Rock Racing squad. His winning performance proves he is ready to defend his title at the professional criterium championships to be held on the Downers Grove course in Illinois mid-August.
"Yeah I knew all along that June was going to be the time to switch back onto the pro roster," Bahati said. " I was disappointed that they didn't get the paper work done in time for Philadelphia, but I knew I would be able to go back before the crit championships."
Bahati was taken off of the Rock Racing Continental team roster and placed onto its amateur counterpart during off-season. He was recently added back onto the professional roster during the International Cycling Union's official window of opportunity to make roster changes in mid-June.
"I wasn't feeling any pressure to win here again," Bahati said regarding his winning performance in the Manhattan Grand Prix. "It was just coming from my friends and peers — not from the guys on the team. It was just like another race to me."
Bahati outpaced Argentinean sprinter Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home) and US elite criterium champion Ken Hanson (Team Type 1). He benefited from the trusty teamwork of the newest addition to the Rock Racing squad, Ivan Dominguez, who just moved over to the team after leaving his ProTour slot with Fuji-Servetto.
Dominguez sacrificed his own result to help Bahati hold a good position through the final laps. "Ivan adds another dimension to this team," said Bahati. "[Ivan] said, ‘Follow me and I'll take you to the Promised Land.' So I did!"
"We had Nic [Sanderson], Caleb [Manion], Sergio [Hernandez] and all the boys on the front and basically got jumped by Team Type 1. So I got on Hanson's wheel and made sure I was third through the last corner. From there, I knew I had it."
Bahati noted the select group of criterium specialist who will compete in the upcoming events to gel before the professional criterium championships. "I'm working with Michael Ball now to have a team ready for the championships," Bahati said. "The riders will most likely be Dominguez, Hernandez, Sanderson, Manion, Justin Williams and a couple of our young riders Iggy Silva or Danny Finneran."
The core group will register to race Chicago's Tour of Elk Grove and Charlotte's Presbyterian Hospital Invitational and Haynes Park. "We will start with some of the Super Week races and then try to race every weekend together leading into Downers Grove so that we are familiar with one another."
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