Pevenage takes the 'second chance' offer, but Ullrich will not join him
by Kirsten Robbins
Michael Ball, owner of the UCI Continental Team Rock Racing, confirmed the addition of Rudy Pevenage as the Director Sportif for 2009. Pevenage has not worked as a directeur sportif since the 2006 T-Mobile team suspended him after he was implicated in the Operación Puerto scandal.
According to Ball, "He was a part of a situation in the past and he is in the process of coming back into the sport to rectify that," Ball told Cyclingnews. "I'm happy to be the avenue to allow that to happen and happy to have him a part of our organization as the directeur sportif."
Pevenage, 54, was known for mentoring Jan Ullrich on teams Telekom, Coast, Bianchi and T-Mobile. In light of the recent hype surrounding Lance Armstrong's return, Ball met with Ullrich and Pevenage to discuss the possibility of the German rider's return to cycling with the California-based team.
While nothing materialized with Ullrich, Ball's encounter with Pevenage evolved into a working relationship. "This whole thing with Lance started a lot of talk, and I was looking to contact Jan Ullrich," Ball said. "Ullrich will not be racing or involved in the management of this team. But, one of the roads that led to Ullrich was Rudy Pevenage. I was fortunate enough to meet Rudy and I thought 'wow, how serendipitous.' One thing led to another and it ended up being a great opportunity for both of us."
Rock Racing has gambled on providing second chances to individuals who have served suspensions for doping. Pevenage joins a list that includes Oscar Sevilla and Tyler Hamilton. "Pevenage comes to our management humbled by his experiences in the last couple of years and he wants to be a part of cycling again," Ball said.
"I don't think he thought anyone would consider him ever again. We are about giving an individual a break with regards to whether they were, or were not, involved in past scandal. I think this sport is better today than it was yesterday, and it's time to move forward. When you have a love or passion for the sport, like Rudy does, it never goes a way. I think the time is right for everyone involved to take the next step."
Rock to get Belgian base
After a cycling career that included the green sprinter's jersey at the 1980 Tour de France, Pevenage, 54, was a team manager for German Team Telekom. He helped the team when the 1996 and 1997 Tour editions with Bjarne Riis and Ullrich, respectively.
He continued his work with Ullrich until the 2006 Tour de France and the start of the Operación Puerto in Spain. Investigators linked the duo to the doctor at the centre of the affair, Eufemiano Fuentes, and both were suspend from the team then known as T-Mobile.
"He is probably the greatest DS in the last 20 years, his resume speaks volumes of accomplishments, those Belgian directors are unbelievable," Ball said. "From his experience and tactical greatness I am honored to have him be a part of our program. The fact is that he has the ability to manage and turn us into a proper professional team. We weren't the most organized team in 2008, but we looked good! This year we want to look good and be a well managed team."
Joining Pevenage will be assistant director Lorenzo LaPage. LaPage, 42, helped direct Italian Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) to victory at the 2005 Giro d'Italia and he was also part of the Discovery Channel staff when Lance Armstrong won his fifth title in 2003 and sixth title in 2004 Tours de France.
"They are based in Belgium and we are looking for a service course over there for now," Ball said regarding the team's decision to send a full squad to contest events on the European calendar in 2009. "We want to be based over there in the future. We will be racing down in South America, Australia and USA [with] opportunities to get into various races around the world. I hope when the times comes that we will be making the campaign to be in Europe and doing the Grand Tours."
Pevenage will make his first appearance as a director in two years with Rock Racing this January at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina followed by the Tour of California in February.