With reporting from Kirsten Robbins in San Luis, Argentina
The Rock Racing team will not start its first UCI race of the season this week after encountering troubles with its racing license. The team was scheduled to contest the Tour de San Luis in Argentina beginning on January 19. USA Cycling's technical director Shawn Ferrell confirmed to Cyclingnews that the team's license has not been finalized, and would say only that he believes there will be a "final resolution" on Friday.
This new problem adds to a long list of woes for the American team. Owner Michael Ball hoped to move the team into the Professional Continental ranks for 2009 and race part of the European schedule, and he hired several big name riders toward that goal.
However, those plans were curtailed due to the global economic crisis hitting Ball's Rock & Republic clothing company. The team reduced its UCI application to a Continental license and cut rider's pay in order to stay afloat. A few riders have already jumped ship and found other teams. Ivan Dominguez went to the Fuji-Servetto ProTour team while Baden Cooke made a hasty exit for the Vacansoleil squad.
Rumors of the team's imminent demise have been rampant, but Ball vehemently denied that the team was in danger of folding.
The problems will delay the season debut of Francisco 'Paco' Mancebo who moved to the Rock Racing squad from the Portuguese Continental team Fercase-Rota dos Móveis this year. Fellow Spaniards Oscar Sevilla and Jose Enrique Gutiérrez and Americans Tyler Hamilton and Fred Rodriguez were also listed on the preliminary start list.
Mancebo now hopes to begin his season at the Tour of California (February 14-22), but the organisers have not yet announced that Rock Racing has been invited. He is scheduled to attend a camp with the team in California at the beginning of February.
"I wanted very much to make my debut in Argentina," Mancebo said in a press release. "I am well, fit and could to do something great there. I will learn my calendar and objectives for this season at the meeting with the team. I will continue to follow my training and will in the meanwhile race in some mountain bike events."