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Michael Ball and Mario Cipollini
Team to continue at amateur level
After months of deliberation and speculation, the International Cycling Union (UCI) officially denied Rock Racing a professional license after the team failed to be approved for both Professional Continental and Continental status. But Rock's not dead yet - owner Michael Ball says the team will continue as an amateur squad.
The team was first denied a Professional Continental License by the UCI back in January. Since then, the team downgraded its ambitions to chasing a Continental license, citing registration possibilities in the USA, Mexico and Spain.
In February, it was announced that Rock Racing had formed a partnership with the Spanish-based team Murcia, a team that was also in the midst of financial distress at the time. The partnership was supposed to ensure a UCI-Continental license under the title Rock Racing-Murcia, however that scenario never materialized.
Ambitions crash down on unsuspecting riders
Upon notice that the team would not receive a Professional Continental license, Ball voided the contracts of three of the team's newest recruits. Pat McCarty and his would-be teammates Tony Cruz and Fred Rodriguez were jettisoned in January when the UCI's decision was made final.
Victor Hugo Pena listed five riders that would stay on board with Rock Racing through its quest to obtain Continental status. Those rider were himself along with Oscar Sevilla, Francisco Mancebo, Glen Chadwick and Floyd Landis.
Ball speculated that hiring Floyd Landis may have had something to do with the UCI's decision to deny the team a license. "I considered it and it was in the news but I think it harmed our chances with getting a pro continental license and a license in general for that matter," said Michael Ball. "It is what it is and the UCI runs the sport and there comes a time when you have to give it up and understand the powers that be.
"I'm sure there are a lot reasons why they didn't give it to us," he added. "Probably one of the mistakes I made was to consider Landis on the team. That really hurt our chances more than anything. I've learned more about this sport and that there are a lot of politics and hopefully we'll be able to get things right."
UCI President Pat McQuaid vigorously denied allegations that Rock Racing's license bid failed for political reasons. "I don't know the details but I would say that's pure bullshit," McQuaid said. "I wasn't involved in the decision but that wouldn't be a reason. That's all bullshit."
Rock Racing targets elite amateur events
Ball said that the team will continue at the amateur level and hope to participate in events such as the Cascade Cycling Classic, Tour of Utah and the Tour of Mexico. Furthermore, he will not hold any of his riders back from signing with another team.
"We won't race as a professional team, that's for sure," he said. "We'll be racing as an amateur team. We still want to race. Unfortunately this rules us out of being at races like Tour of California which will be one that we'll miss."
Rock Racing has had a turbulent history since its inception in 2007. The team was founded by Michael Ball and affiliated with his clothing company Rock and Republic. It was branded as a 'misfit' team for hiring riders that were linked to past doping scandals including Oscar Sevilla, Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Botero.
When asked if he regretted signing the other riders, Ball said, "Not at all because if that was the case we would have had issues in the past and we didn't. A few guys were linked to this or caught up in that but it's much cleaner than it was. I can tell you my guys are focused and clean."
"I can't fault anybody who feels that Rock Racing shouldn't be part of the sport, that's unfortunate that they don't get my message, which is to have something different, have some great athletes in the sport and frankly go out there and kick ass," he added. "It's all about racing and doing the best we could and frankly we crushed the competition."