By Mark Zalewski
Many rumours have been circulating over the past week about the Rock Racing team and its parent designer clothing company Rock & Republic, all stemming from the company's financial position within the worsening global economy. The main rumour that the company will be completely disbanding its cycling team appear to be an exaggeration, though internal company communication has indicated that a downsizing of the parent company's staff overall, including portions of the cycling team's staff, is happening. As such there has been speculation that this could reduce the number of riders on the team.
"Rock Racing will continue to race in 2009," a statement from the team said. "Tyler Hamilton, Rahsaan Bahati and Justin Williams will defend their U.S. national titles. More important information about the team's plans will follow. We appreciate your interest and continued support of Rock Racing."
Martine Charles, a spokesperson with the team, would not elaborate on the status of the team other than to say that it is continuing. When asked if the team will be downsizing, especially considering that not all of the riders would be able to race on the UCI roster, the official answer from Charles was: "As of today the team is going to be the same". However, other sources within the team speculated that downsizing is a likely possibility.
US criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati was snowboarding at Big Bear in California when reached by Cyclingnews. When asked about the rumour he laughed saying, "I hope I still have a job!" Bahati said that he had not heard anything from team owner Michael Ball or the management about the team shutting down.
Michael Ball had indicated for most of the last year that he had planned on taking the team to Pro Continental status for 2009. However, the team withdrew its application to the UCI before the deadline in order to remain a Continental team. Still the team has signed many high-profile talents and was expecting to carry a separate amateur squad consisting of many riders that are currently professionals.
Though not necessarily linked to this recent development, two riders, Ivan Dominguez and William Walker, that had appeared on rosters released by Rock Racing in the past weeks have been removed. Dominguez announced last week that he was only in talks and had never signed a contract with the team. Last week the Fuji-Servetto ProTour team announced they had signed Dominguez, and Walker has also been linked with that team.
Rock Racing's Sean Weide confirmed with Cyclingnews that Dominguez and Walker were no longer on the team's roster, and have been replaced with Spaniard David Martin Velasco and Australian Aaron Marcus Kemps.