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Team Rock Racing could be affected as Rock & Republic tightens its belt

Rock Racing, the team that advertised “Here to Stay” as its rallying cry, may feel the pinch next year as its primary sponsor, fashion company Rock & Republic, tightens its belt. An email from within the company this week detailed layoffs within the luxury jean company as well as the cycling team. Team spokesman Sean Weide confirmed that he had heard about the layoffs but could not elaborate. “We are aware of the situation,” Weide said Monday afternoon, “but we don't want to put out any false information right now concerning Rock Racing, either.”

By Ben Delaney

Tyler Hamilton's national road championship win was a team highlight

Tyler Hamilton’s national road championship win was a team highlight

Photo: Kurt Jambretz/Action Images

Rock Racing, the team that advertised “Here to Stay” as its rallying cry, may feel the pinch next year as its primary sponsor, fashion company Rock & Republic, tightens its belt.

An email from within the company this week detailed layoffs within the luxury jean company as well as the cycling team.

Team spokesman Sean Weide confirmed that he had heard about the layoffs but could not elaborate. “We are aware of the situation,” Weide said Monday afternoon, “but we don’t want to put out any false information right now concerning Rock Racing, either.”

The email from inside Rock & Republic mentions layoffs of about 40 people within the company — including Rock Racing kit cutters and sewers — plus Rock Racing team management.

However, Rock Racing released the following short statement Monday night: “Rock Racing will continue to race in 2009. Tyler Hamilton, Rahsaan Bahati and Justin Williams will defend their U.S. national titles. More important information about the team’s plans will follow.”

Rock Racing spokeswoman Martine Charles said she could not elaborate on the team’s fiscal or staffing situations, but insisted “we will be racing next year.”

Angelo Wright, agent for national criterium champion and Rock rider Rashaan Bahati, said there had been a lack of communication from the team recently.

“I’ve been trying to dig through exactly what is going on, but they have been pretty spotty in getting back to us,” Wright said. “Communication has been minimal over the last month. We haven’t been able to get the type of communication from them that we would normally expect.”

The team announced a star-studded roster last month, and then announced it had hired former European director Rudy Pevenage.

However, communication from and within the team stalled in November and December. Ten riders who were on the roster were left off the Continental roster submitted to USA Cycling earlier this month. At least one of the riders told VeloNews he had had no communication from the team regarding his status.

Mike Creed, another Rock Racing rider, said he hoped it wasn’t true, and that he had not heard from team management. “But I have gotten several phone calls in the last half hour,” he said Monday afternoon.

Gary Hanson, Rock Racing’s operations manager, did not respond to calls for comment.

Rock & Republic sells jeans to the tune of $280. But times are tough in the pricey jeans market, as Business Week recently reported.

VeloNews managing editor Neal Rogers contributed to this report.