By Zack Vestal
From the beginning of this Amgen Tour of California, questions have surrounded Rock Racing.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, one of the questions was simply, “What will they ride?” The answer arrived with an announcement that Kestrel would provide RT900 frames and forks, and Shimano would provide wheels and components. However, a visit to the team trailer to check out the new bikes invited only more mystery.
The night before the prologue, mechanics were hard at work on both road and TT bikes. Fuji D-6 time trial bikes included frames with a stock graphics package, and also the same frames with no graphics. A mix of Kestrel RT800s with red and white graphics, and some with what appeared to be spray paint, also hung on the racks.
Sunday morning at the start of stage 1, the row of team bikes was composed of RT800s with the red and carbon graphic. On the other hand, spare bikes on the roofs of team cars had clearly been spray-painted.
Karen Bliss at Advanced Sports cleared up most of the story.
Advanced Sports owns both the Kestrel and Fuji brands. “We’re promoting Kestrel, and didn’t want to go down the road of a dual sponsorship,” she said. “But Kestrel doesn’t have a UCI-legal time trial bike, yet.”
According to Bliss, Kestrel has a new time trial frame in the works that is already at the rapid-prototype stage, and has been in the wind tunnel. So until the new TT frames are ready, Advanced Sports is accommodating the team’s needs with the Fuji D-6.
In a fortunate circumstance for both Advanced Sports and Rock Racing, new rider Chris Baldwin helped develop the D-6 last season with Toyota-United. “Access to these incredible riders is a great resource,” said Bliss, “and with Kestrel we are excited to use their feedback to further influence what our engineers and industrial designers have already started.”
“Some of the Fuji time trial frames were just what we could find at the office,” she said. “We said, ‘do what you want with the bikes. ‘” Whether or not the Fuji TT bikes have graphics is a function more of the teams immediate needs and possible plans for their own graphics, rather than a branding issue.
As to the paint scheme on the Kestrel RT800 frames, Bliss said again, “We told them, do what you want to the bikes. As long as the logo shows, we’re OK with it.” And Rock Racing wanted the frame graphics to project their style. But she’s only recently learned the whole story behind the spray paint. “They said that in keeping with the anarchy theme, the first idea was to have each rider graffiti and then sign their own bike,” she related.
However, time constraints have limited the actual execution of the project. Last-minute delivery of the frames made it hard to pull off to the extent originally planned. For now, the graffiti bikes have been relegated to the roofs of the team cars, as spares.
“We’re happy to let them do their thing,” said Bliss. “The publicity is great for us.”
And the icing on the story for Sunday is Francesco Mancebo piloting his new Kestrel to the win in stage one.