The tenure of the Rock Racing cycling team may be close to coming to an end. The team which was formed about two years ago and burst onto the international spotlight at the 2008 Tour of California has been hit hard by the financial crisis and is running very low on funds. In the past week, the team has had to lay off the three highest paid riders on its amateur team, Chris Baldwin, Michael Creed and Caesar Grajales and its participation in the upcoming Tour of Gila is in serious doubt.
The Rock Racing team was initially funded by the Rock and Republic clothing company which has annual sales well into the eight-figure range. However, its line of $300+ dollar jeans and similarily priced apparel have been selling poorly as everyone tightens their belts in this uncertain economic times. Rock Racing looked to be shutting down before the 2009 season even started but, Michael Ball, the team owner and co-founder of Rock and Republic told me at the Tour of California that he stepped in to help save the team.
The Rock and Republic Board of Directors wanted to pull the plug, but Ball had all the riders return their contracts so that new contracts, with significant pay cuts, could be put in place. Also, Ball agreed to pay a percentage of the team budget out of his own pocket. However, it looks like those measures were not enough to save the team.
Personally, I would hate to see Rock Racing fold. A lot of my fellow journalists will probably be glad to say good bye to Ball and his crew, but I think Rock Racing was a breath of fresh air. Also, as I have stated before, I was very disappointed that many of my fellow journalists never seemed to take the time to understand Michael Ball and his vision. Many of the early reports in the media were extremely negative. It just seemed like my writing brethren didn't feel the need to gather any background before shooting from the hip.
Some journalists will mock Rock Racing's motto of "here to stay". I honestly believe that if it weren't for this unprecedented economic downturn Rock Racing would be healthy and racing a full calendar. I hear my fellow journalist bemoaning their slumping ad sales. Do you think that might also be the case for Rock and Republic?
Before people start piling on me as a tool for Rock and Republic, I realize that the the way Michael Ball and his crew rolled up to bike races was pretty unique and not to everyone's liking. However, we should all practice some measure of tolerance. Ball and Co. brought a significant number of new eyeballs to the sport of cycling. Isn't that worthy of some understanding?