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Rock Racing owner Michael Ball and Mario Cipollini
Former Rock Racing chief downplays talk of a return
Former Rock Racing manager Michael Ball has quashed speculation linking him with a return to professional cycling. Ball managed the controversial Rock Racing team but Rock & Republic, the firm behind Rock Racing, filed for bankruptcy in the US courts in April 2010 and Ball was forced to step down and eventually sell the brand. The team folded soon afterwards.
However, last week Italian businessman Roberto Tronconi told Cyclingnews that he was set to relaunch the brand in Europe after long negotiations with Rock Racing founder Michael Ball. The team are now racing at an amateur level in Italy.
“There are no names or up and comers, it’s a bunch of weekend warrior types. It’s not a matter of relaunching, it’s just that there are a lot of fans that wanted to continue to wear the kit. It’s cool stuff,” Ball told Cyclingnews.
“I’m not supporting it or anything. I know that they’re out there racing in the colours though. So I’m not coming back and I’m not going to be in the ProTour any time soon.”
Asked if he had contemplated a return to the sport, Ball distanced himself, saying that he was taking more time to spend with his daughter.
“I can tell you this, cycling is one of the greatest sports and it’s close to me. I still feel that way but the things that have happened over the course of the last few years weren’t fun and it didn’t feel right to continue in the sport in the way that I was doing it. I got out and maybe some time in the future who knows, but I still like riding my bike. That’s what it was all about in the first place anyway.”
Ball and Rock Racing burst onto the cycling scene in 2008 and instantly clashed with the sport’s hierarchy. Having signed Santiago Botero, Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla in the team’s first season, the team were barred from the Tour of California and later in their short history they were denied a UCI racing licence. Along the way, there were contractual disputes with riders, some of whom claimed to have been sacked mid-season without any explanation or payment.
Ball admitted to mistakes but also told Cyclingnews that the media were partly to blame for the team’s demise.
“It just got out of control, from the media to the marketing of the team as the bad boys, but people forget that it was all marketing. It worked and it resonated but it got a little bit more complicated than I wanted it to be. Some people took the whole bad boy thing too seriously, because it was just a bunch of guys who wanted to race their bikes and at the end of the day if you put a skull on the back of anything you create an image that will polarize people. It was fun.”
Now out of cycling Ball rarely talks to any of the riders or staff he once employed.
“Occasionally I get a tweet or that type of thing or a phone text but not really. I’ve moved on from that. It’s cool that we left a lasting impression.”
Meanwhile, Ball added that he had not been part of any ongoing US investigation led by the FDA. It was reported last year that former professional Floyd Landis had worn a wire in a meeting with Ball in order for the investigators to obtain a warrant.
Asked if he was part of any investigation Ball replied: “There’s no legal action that I’m aware of. I’m so far from that and in such a different place. A lot of stuff for me in the press and the media is often overblown. There are a lot of haters out there and I was just too passionate about some things.”