Rock Racing has added a wealth of European and domestic talent to its 2009 team roster, signing several top riders in recent days.
In a release issued over the weekend the team announced that it had reached deals with former ProTour riders Baden Cooke, Francisco Mancebo, and José Enrique Gutiérrez, as well as top domestic talents Ivan Dominquez, Glen Chadwick, Chris Baldwin and Caleb Manion.
Team owner Michael Ball also noted that the team has extended the contracts of U.S. road champion Tyler Hamilton, national criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati and U23 criterium champion Justin Williams. The 2009 roster also includes returning riders Oscar Sevilla, Fred Rodriguez and Victor Hugo Peña.
“We have assembled a world class team and acquired a mix of tremendous talent and experience,” said Ball. “We have the strength, depth and tenacity to compete in any race around the globe.”
Rock Racing’s line-up for its third season includes riders from eight different countries who have won stages at all three of cycling’s grand tours and several national championship titles.
“Last year was a year of redemption,” Ball said. “Given the opportunity to ride, we proved we were able to win. In 2009, we will continue our winning tradition, and from a branding and fan perspective, be the No. 1 team in the world.”
Notably absent from the team’s 2009 line-up is the controversial 2006 U.S. criterium champion, Kayle Leogrande. Leogrande sued former team soigneur Suzanne Sonye earlier in the year after she repeated allegations outlined in an affidavit she provided to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that Leogrande had admitted using performance-enhancing substances. The conversation was recorded and subsequently posted on the Internet. In August, Leogrande’s suit was dismissed, but his troubles have continued and is said to be still under investigation by USADA.
Ball and the team have not been shy about generating a bit of controversy in the past, by signing riders who have been suspended in the past for doping violations or were under investigation by civil or anti-doping authorities in other countries.
In February, the team was forced to ride the Tour of California with a trimmed roster after race organizers banned Hamilton, Sevilla and Santiago Botero from participating in the week-long stage race. All three had been mentioned in connection with Spain’s Operación Puerto, a doping investigation that currently sits in judicial limbo as investigators have been barred from turning thousands of documents over to the UCI or WADA.
Controversy aside, the team has had considerable success in 2008, scoring 45 victories and making 106 podium appearances. Botero won the Redlands Bicycle Classic in April and led a 1-2-3-4 finish in the prologue of the Vuelta a Colombia in May. Sevilla won the second leg of the Triple Crown of Cycling in June at the Reading Classic and Hamilton captured the Tour of Qinghai Lake in July and later won the U.S. professional road title.
Rock Racing 2009
(Biographies provided by team)
? Chris Baldwin (USA) is a two-time U.S. National Time Trial Champion (2003 and 2005) who spent the past three seasons riding for the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team. A stage racing specialist, he has 22 podium finishes to his credit the past two seasons.
? Alex Boyd (USA) won the 2007 Collegiate National Road Cycling Championships during his freshman year at Midwestern State University and displayed tremendous potential in nine seasons as an amateur. The 21-year-old raced for Team Waste Management/Racelab U23 in 2008.
? Glen Chadwick (NZL) won the Tour of Arkansas and Vuelta Mexico stage races in 2008 while earning King of the Mountain jersey classifications at the Tour de Beauce and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. The 32-year-old also represented New Zealand at the Summer Olympics and the UCI world road race championships in Italy.
? Baden Cooke (AUS) is a past stage and green jersey (sprints) winner at the Tour de France (both in 2003) who has won six stages of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in his home country of Australia, including one in this year’s edition. The 30-year-old also earned a national championship in 2000 on the track in the Madison.
? Ivan Dominguez (CUB) also known as “The Cuban Missle” is considered the top sprinter on the North American circuit. The 32 year old has won stages at all three of the U.S. “grand tours” (California, Georgia and Missouri) while racing for Toyota-United the past three years.
? José Manuel “Chepe” Garcia (MEX) is the current Mexican National Time Trial Champion and winner of his country’s National Road Race Championship in 1996. The 35-year-old was a dependable teammate the past two seasons for former Toyota-United (and current Rock Racing) teammates Ivan Dominguez, Chris Baldwin and Caleb Manion.
? José Enrique Gutiérrez (ESP) is a climbing and stage racing specialist who has participated in all three of cycling’s “Grand Tours” – finishing second at the Giro d’Italia in 2006 and winning a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2004. The 34-year-old comes to Rock Racing from the L.P.R. Brakes-Ballan squad.
? Francisco Mancebo (ESP) won the 2008 Vuelta Chihuahua Internacional in Mexico for the second straight year while riding for the Portugese Fercase-Rota dos Moveis team. The 32-year-old has competed in all three of the “Grand Tours” and was the Spanish National Road Race Champion in 2004.
? Caleb Manion (AUS) is one of four riders coming to Rock Racing from Toyota-United where he compiled nine podium finishes in 2008. The 27-year-old won two stages of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and the Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium on his way to capturing the overall win at Nalley/King Omnium.
? David Tanner (AUS) is a one-day specialist who had nine podium finishes while competing for Barloworld in 2008. The 24-year-old is one of three Australians on the Rock Racing roster (all new to the team in 2009).
? David Vitoria (SWI) compiled 10 podium finishes in 2008 while riding for the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia team. The 24-year-old also won a stage and briefly led the Under 23 version of the Vuelta a España. In 2007, he raced for the BMC Cycling Team.
? Rahsaan Bahati (USA) is the reigning U.S. National Criterium Champion and a two-time winner of the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. The 26-year-old won nine races in 2009, including two stages of the Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic.
? Austin Carroll (USA) is a track specialist who recently teamed with Guy East in the Madison to give the USA Cycling Under 23 developmental program its first major success winning the UIV U-23 Dortmund three-day in Germany. The 21-year-old is also a former Under 23 national champion (2006) in the points race.
? Michael Creed (USA) was one of the team’s most dependable stage racers in 2008, winning a hard-fought fourth place on the final stage of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California. The 27-year-old also finished in the top 10 at the U.S. National Time Trial Championships the past three years.
? Freddy Cruz (USA) was a member of Rock Racing’s winning National Team Pursuit squad at the 2008 USA Cycling Junior Track National Championships. The 18-year-old went through the Major Motion Cycling developmental program with current Rock Racing teammates Ian Moir and Justin Williams.
? Danny Finneran (USA) was a member of Rock Racing’s winning National Team Pursuit squad and was the bronze medalist in the 3 km pursuit at the 2008 USA Cycling Junior Track National Championships. The 18-year-old also finished third at the USA Cycling 17-18 Junior Men’s Criterium Championship.
? Cesar Grajales (COL) missed much of the 2008 season with a knee injury sustained at training camp. The 35-year-old did return to racing in May and later won the Gwinnett Bike Fest. In 2004, he beat Lance Armstrong on the tortuous climbing stage up Brasstown Bald at the 2004 Tour de Georgia.
? Tyler Hamilton (USA) enjoyed a storybook season in 2008 after nearly retiring from cycling in 2007. The 37-year-old won his first U.S. national road race title by two-thousandths of a second in a thrilling finish a month after winning his first stage race in four years at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China.
? Sergio Hernandez (USA) scored a pair of third-place finishes in his second year as a professional. The 23-year-old joins Rahsaan Bahati, Austin Carroll and Sterling Magnell as third-year riders with Rock Racing in 2009.
? Sterling Magnell (USA) enjoyed his most prolific season with five victories in 2008, including two at the Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic. The 25-year-old was also a winner of the U.S. National Criterium Pro-Am Challenge a day before helping Rahsaan Bahati earn the national criterium championship in Downers Grove, Ill.
? Ian Moir (USA) is a track specialist who finished third in the Madison at the 2008 USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships. The 18-year-old is one of three riders on the Rock Racing roster who is under the age of 20.
? Victor Hugo Peña (COL) figured prominently for Rock Racing in stage races in 2008 while scoring a victory of his own in the seventh stage of the Vuelta a Colombia in May. The 34-year-old is one of three Rock Racing Riders (joining Tyler Hamilton and Michael Creed) who are former teammates of Lance Armstrong.
? Fred Rodriguez (USA) showed no signs of slowing down in his 13th season as a professional in 2008. The 35-year-old finished third at the Commerce Bank International Championship in Philadelphia and was second in the ING Direct Capital Criterium in Washington, D.C.
? Oscar Sevilla (ESP) delivered one of Rock Racing’s biggest victories in 2008 by winning the Commerce Bank Reading Classic. The 32-year-old also had a team-high 21 podium finishes, including overall victory at the RCN Classic in Colombia and second in the Spanish national road race championships.
? Justin Williams (USA) joined Rock Racing teammates Rahsaan Bahati and Tyler Hamilton as individual national champions when he captured the USA Cycling Under-23 National Criterium Championship. The 19-year-old also excels on the track, where he won three medals at the 2008 USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships.