Team Rock Racing to start with eight riders at 2008 Tour of California
Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla and Mario Cipollini headline team roster. Team owner Michael Ball announces need for riders' union to protect individual rights.
Rock Racing Team Owner Michael Ball announced today that he stands by his riders and is committed to doing everything possible to ensure the team is able to field a complete, eight-rider squad for the Amgen Tour of California. Ball, outfitted in Rock Racing?s new black-and-lime-green ?Juice? uniform, made his remarks during a packed press conference Saturday at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, Calif.
As announced by Ball, Rock Racing?s roster for the eight-stage, eight-day international stage race consists of: Mario Cipollini (ITA), Santiago Botero (COL), Michael Creed (USA), Tyler Hamilton (USA), Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), Victor Hugo Pena (COL), Freddie Rodriguez (USA) and Oscar Sevilla (ESP). Team directors are Mariano Friedrick (director sportif) and Haldane Morris (assistant director sportif).
A roster released earlier this week by race organizer AEG for Rock Racing did not include Botero, Hamilton or Sevilla. Ball said he hopes the omission of those three riders was simply an administrative glitch. The three have all received clearance from their respective national federations that they are not the subject of any current investigations and are free and clear to race.
?I?m steadfast in my guys riding,? Ball said. ?I?m in a position to give these guys who may or may not have made a mistake a second chance. They?re willing to step up for a second chance and I?m willing to give them that chance.?
The recent exclusion of the Astana professional cycling team from the Tour de France is a perfect example of the mistakes being made at the sport?s highest levels, Ball noted.
?The fact that the Tour of California is allowing Astana in this race is good. Bravo,? he said. ?They (Astana) should be allowed to race. I support that."
?You are innocent until proven guilty. But for there to be a wholesale swipe across a team or an individual who in the past was under suspicion, that?s the past. This is time to make a difference in this sport. We?re trying to move forward and make a difference.
?The past is the past. We have a moment right now to change this sport. Let?s move forward. If it means giving these guys amnesty, do it. Stop digging up graves. This sport is going to wither on a vine and die if this continues. Sponsors are bailing out. If things continue with these conditions, I can?t do anything else but exit. It doesn?t make any sense business-wise.?
Uncertainty surrounding Rock Racing?s final roster for the Tour of California has brought the team closer together, Ball said.
?When you have adversity, it brings a team closer together and makes them stronger,? he said. ?If my guys could never race again, I?d still pay them and send them into the city to tell children that there are better things to get involved in than drugs or gangs.?
Ball said Rock Racing is committed to a fair, anti-doping policy and individual rider rights. Central to that, he said, is the formation of a union.
?It?s good for