By Kirsten Robbins in Clovis, California, USA
Rudy Pevenage and Lorenzo LaPage are working hard to find a secure co-sponsor opportunity for the US-based Continental team Rock Racing, and hope the outfit's Tour of California success will aid the search. The pair of Belgian directeurs are leading the squad in California, where Francisco Mancebo won the first stage in Santa Rosa for the outfit.
"I think the races here in California will be very important in finding a new sponsor," Pevenage told Cyclingnews.
Rumours that Rock Racing was experiencing financial difficulty started circulating in mid-December, when the title sponsor Rock & Republic acknowledged the need to downsizing staff within the company as a result of the recent financial hardships.
"I hope to continue with this team in the next years," said Pevenage. "But, that is not dependent on me. It depends on finding a good sponsor or a good co-sponsor. Rock Racing is a good sponsor and I think he [Michael Ball] would like to go on, but for the moment it is very difficult with the economy.
"We have a good team and we could make a lot of publicity all over the world," he added. "It was a big step for Mancebo to win and the best thing that could have happened for us. It's the biggest race in the USA and also in Europe because many people are watching. The win was emotional."
United States of America National Champion Tyler Hamilton addressed rumours surrounding the team at the stage four press conference. "With the economy, Michael Ball and Rock & Republic have suffered a little bit," Hamilton said. "But that is the same with any big company. Like he said from the beginning his team is here to stay.
"We're still here, we're still fighting," he added. "As a team, we all decided to make this thing work. We have to roll with the punches to help this team stay afloat. We are around for this year, that's for sure. There is no June deadline anymore."
Rock Racing owner Michael Ball offered Pevenage a leading position in November last year after a meeting in Los Angeles. The 54-year-old has not worked as a director sportif since being suspended in 2006 by T-Mobile for implications in Operación Puerto. He was known for mentoring Jan Ullrich on teams Telekom, Coast, Bianchi and T-Mobile.
LaPage signed on as the team's assistant directeur. The 42-year-old helped direct Italian Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) to victory at the 2005 Giro d'Italia. He was also part of the Discovery Channel staff when Lance Armstrong won his fifth and sixth Tour de France titles.