Rock Racing stamped VOID on Pat McCarty's 2010 racing contract when the International Cycling Union (UCI) denied the team the Professional Continental license it was expecting. The former Discovery Channel rider has been left to fend for himself along with would-be teammates Tony Cruz and Fred Rodriguez.
"Yes, I signed with Rock Racing at the end of November," McCarty told Cyclingnews. "I actually went through the whole process of signing a contract, sending it in and applying for all the insurance. There was a clause in it, of course, that said if Rock Racing did not receive the UCI Professional Continental licence or status then either Rock Racing or the rider could terminate the contract at that time."
McCarty joined the US Postal Service in 2004 at the age of 23 and moved forward with the team as it turned into the Discovery Channel in 2005. He went on to race for Phonak in 2006 and when it folded he was offered a spot on Garmin-Chipotle through 2008. Last year he raced for the US-based OUCH presented by Maxxis.
The 28-year-old says he had trouble finding a professional contract in the US, in part because of the recent age restriction placed on Continental teams whereby half the riders must be under the age of 28. As a last resort, he signed on with Rock Racing in November despite widespread knowledge of the team's struggle to find an additional sponsor, announced by Michael Ball in August last year.
"Everything I had heard from the team was that they were doing everything they could to get the Pro Continental licence," McCarty explained. "I had dead-end alleys with the age limit and getting on other teams, so it was a 'what if' situation. It sounded like they had a good sponsor but it was pending the Pro Continental licence; they had big plans and Michael was motivated to make it happen.
"Nothing is for sure in cycling and I knew the situation going into it," he continued. "It was late in the year and I was already down about not a finding a team and this came along and I knew something bad could happen, but, you never know... so I gave it a try."
Things seemed to be looking up for Rock Racing when it re-signed its core group of riders - Oscar Sevilla, Francisco Mancebo, Victor Hugo Pena, Fred Rodriguez, Glen Chadwick and Ivan Dominguez. Even better when it brought on board new recruits McCarty, Tony Cruz and later Floyd Landis under the idea that the team would secure a Professional Continental licence.
In January the UCI announced that it denied Rock Racing the Professional Continental status it requested, however. "I read on Cyclingnews that they didn't get the licence but I really didn't know a lot about what was going on," said McCarty. "The team contacted me and said that the contract I had signed was void because it did not receive the licence and that they didn't know what would happen pending Continental status."
It is widely known that Rock Racing continues to search for a possible means to stay afloat. Most recently, it is believed that Rock Racing is attempting a merge with the Spanish-based team Murcia. However, only five riders have maintained some form of contract with the team - Pena, Sevilla, Mancebo, Chadwick and Landis. McCarty, in addition to Cruz and Rodriguez, have been left behind either on their own accord or, in McCarty's case, because the team voided the contract.
"I could speculate based on facts and what I know but, there wasn't a lot of communication with the team," McCarty explained. "When I did, it was always about business and the Pro Continental licence. I never got a feel for what, or who, was really trying to get the process moving. But I got a feel for the dynamics on the team, though.
"I would assume those would be the five main guys because first, they know Michael [Ball] really well, they've been on the team in the past and that they are possibly seen as the best or better riders on the team," he added.
"I hadn't been on the team previously, neither had Tony," he continued. "The real reason we came on was to pep up the team in Pro Continental status races. Once that went away it was easy to put two and two together that we wouldn't be apart of the team anymore."
A modest home with old friends...
McCarty will be racing for the Richardson-based amateur team Matrix/Richardson Bike Mart, temporarily, in hopes of finding a professional team in the future. The squad was formed through his former coach Max Miley and Richardson Bike Mart owner Jim Hoyt.
"I was talking to Max over the off season, he knew my situation with Rock and that I was having a hard time finding a pro team," McCarty said. "He went to Jim and figured out a deal to do a lot of the Texan races and support me so that I don't have to get a job. I can get to all the NRC races.
"Obviously with Rock a few bad things happened really late but basically this is a team I rode for as a junior and they have stepped up to help me for the short term," he added. "More or less except for being a pro they are doing a lot for me. I will get to all the big NRC races so that I can race and just stay in the game."
McCarty says he was surprised that he did not receive a contact to race for a professional cycling team in the US, especially given his years of experience racing for the world's top professional teams. "Yes, I was surprised and it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I started riding really well at the end of the season last year but maybe it was too little too late.
"The decisions were made with other pro teams by the time I was riding good enough and they didn't have enough spots left for older guys," he continued. "I wasn't even considering the age rule until I started talking to other teams. With my history as a racer and being on my other teams I didn't think it would be hard to find a team. I was surprised and discouraged by that."
His NRC schedule includes Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin, Mt. Hood Classic and the Cascade Classic. "NRC races that I could do well at I will go," McCarty explained. "The bike shop will support me to get to those. I will do what ever I can to make an impression and keep in contact with pro teams to see what happens."