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Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

7 Posts tagged with the rock-racing tag

The 3rd annual Amgen Tour of California is in the books.  The people from

Amgen were conspicuously absent from the race, but reports are that they are

happy and looking to continue sponsorship.  Let's hope so.  Here are some

random thoughts about the race.


Things I liked:


All the aggressive riding.  It was full-on from day one first with the BMC Team

sending guys up the road on stages 1 and 2 and then with attacks by the likes

of George Hincapie, Robert Gesink, Dominique Rollin, that Hincapie guy again,

Michael Creed, Tom Zirbel, that Hincapie guy again, etc, etc.


The non-Pro Tour teams showing themselves in front of their bigger brothers.

These lesser weights (in UCI classification only?) didn't just hide out at the

back of the pack waiting for another beating, they raced side-by-side to the



Podium girls.  Hats off to Michael Ball and Rock Racing for bringing some

much-needed feminine touches to the main stage.


Mount Hamilton.  This bump helped create one of the most selective finishes

in the history of the AToC.  When combined with Sierra Road this made for a

very exciting stage.


Mario Cipollini.  Cipo is in his second career as a bike racer and has admitted

that he is playing with house money.  But, ride he did and he was in there when

he needed to be.  Bravo!


Levi's time trial ride.  Guys like David Millar, Christian Vandevelde, Tom

Zirbel and Ben Jacques-Maynes rode extremely well in Solvang, but Leipheimer

delivered the knock-out punch to anyone else's hopes to win the AToC.  Yeah,

he was expected to do well, but not that well.  It was a drubbing.


Things I didn't like:


The AToC organizers bumping three riders from Rock Racing from starting.  I

have still not seen the supposed letter from the UCI stating that there are

active doping investigations on Santiago, Oscar and Tyler.  Anybody else seen

any news on the alleged open doping investigations?


Mother Nature.  Maybe it was payback for kicking out the three Rock Racing

riders, but why penalize all the other racers and spectators with so much

rain?  I was starting to gather a few animals, two-by-two.


Media parking.  Hey, I am a journalist.  I am doing a job at the AToC.  Please

give me a place to park my car and don't trap me in some parking garage with

one attendant to take cash so I have to spend an hour waiting in line to leave

after the race.


Technical manual.  Is it so hard to put a graphic showing the press room on

the map of the finish area?



1,391 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, mario-cipollini, rock-racing, amgen-tour-of-california

As reported earlier, Rock Racing started only five riders in today's first stage, the 2.1-mile prologue, in the 2008 Amgen Tour of California(AToC). AToC organizers excluded three of Rock Racing's riders supposedly because they had open doping investigations. Rock Racing has maintained that there are no open investigations, but race organizers held firm. Frankly, it is not clear to me that there are any open doping investigations. I haven't seen any public mention that there are any open investigations and none of the Rock Racing riders have been privately notified that they are under investigation.


What is interesting to me is the parallel between what happened earlier this week to Team Astana. In the Astana affair, Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) issued a statement that Team Astana will not be invited to any ASO events, which includes the Tour de France. ASO cited the past history of doping on the team as their reason for the exclusion. However, Team Astana is a completely different team in 2008. Gone are all the riders implicated in any 2007 doping infractions as well as the whole team management.


So, if all the problem riders and team personnel are gone the team should be clean. The only rider on the team with a potential problem is Alberto Contador who has been linked to the same Operacion Puerto affair that AToC organizers used as a reason to exclude the three Rock Racing riders.


I think the decisions to exclude three riders from the AToC and Team Astana from the Tour are unfair. If you are upset that Levi may not get to ride in France, I think to be consistent, you have to also be upset that Tyler, Oscar and Santiago aren't riding the AToC. Would it be fair to allow Team Astana to ride the Tour de France if they don't bring Alberto Contador? How do you all feel about this? Do you all agree that both decisions are unfair?


On to the racing news, which I hope will shortly eclipse all this talk of doping. My pre-race prediction (and I made that prediction on Thursday), Fabian Cancellara, obliterated the competition winning by a substantial four-second margin in the short, 2.1-mile prologue time trial. Levi Leipheimer, who won the first two prologue time trials in 2006 and 2007, finished fourth, six seconds back.


No big surprises in the race for the overall. All the overall contenders finished within 20 seconds of each other. With several big climbing stages and a 15-mile time trial yet to come, the race is still a dead heat. Cancellara could hold the jersey for the next two days which offers only moderate climbing and flat finishes.  However, come stage 3 on Wednesday, when both Mount Hamilton and Sierra Road are on the agenda, look for the 2006 Paris-Roubaix Champion and two-time World Time Trial Champion to hopefully transfer the jersey to one of his teammates such as Jens Voigt, Stuart O'Grady or Bobby Julich.



1,282 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: tour-de-france, bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, tour-of-california, rock-racing, team-astana, amgen-tour-of-california

The storm surrounding the Rock Racing Team's roster for the Amgen Tour of

California(AToC) has subsided a bit with the announcement from team owner

Michael Ball that the squad will start only five riders on Sunday, leaving

Oscar Sevilla, Santiago Botero and Tyler Hamilton on the sidelines.  The

team will be composed of Michael Creed, Doug Ollerenshaw, Victor Hugo Pena,

Freddie Rodriguez and Super Mario Cipollini.  The entire team voted to start

with the shortened roster.


At issue here is whether the three Rock Racing riders are part of any active

doping investigations.  At a press conference on Saturday, Michael Ball

provided documentation, a letter from the Federacion Ciclismo de Colombia

indicating that Botero is not under investigation, a letter from Real

Federacion Espanolo de Ciclismo indicating that Sevilla is not under

investigation and also a letter from UCI president Pat McQuaid indicating

that Oscar Sevilla is not currently under investigation.  Ball maintains

that Tyler has never been informed that there is a pending anti-doping case.

Furthermore Ball contends that Hamilton cannot be sanctioned for anything

stemming from Operacion Puerto because according to the rules it would

'pre-date the case for which he has already served a suspension'.


Race organizers maintain that there is an open investigation involving the

named riders citing that the Operacion Puerto case was been re-opened on

February 14th.  However, Sevilla, Botero and Hamilton have not been explicitly

named in the new investigation.  Given that they were all named in the 2006

Operacion Puerto it can be assumed that they will be named and investigated,

but at this time it is only speculation what the prosecutors in Spain are

doing.  Is that enough evidence to assert that the three riders are currently

under investigation?


Obviously, this is a very touchy situation for both sides.  There is enough

gray area here to feel that both sides have made a case, however, since it

appears that the race organization's ousting is based on the re-opening of

the Operacion Puerto case, it would be prudent to verify that the case has

indeed been re-opened.


One thing that is interesting in this whole sordid affair is that the USADA

recently told AToC race organizers that it cannot comment if there are any

active investigations on riders.  This is to protect a rider from being tainted

undeservedly or any unwarranted actions if the investigation finds no illegal

activity.  So, how does the race organization know of any active investigations

if the national doping agencies will not comment?  We are treading very closely

to stripping all rights riders have to fair and impartial treatment.



1,423 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, rock-racing, amgen-tour-of-california

A Storm is Brewing

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Feb 16, 2008

Less than a day before the start of the 3rd annual Amgen Tour of California (AToC) and there is a huge storm on the horizon. At the center of the controversy is Michael Ball and his Rock Racing Team; the issue being whether certain riders on his team roster will be allowed to start the race. Earlier this week, Ball submitted ten riders names as potential members of his team for the AToC. When race organizers published the team rosters, only five of those original ten were listed as potential starters. Somewhere along the way, race organizers left five of Michael's riders off the list.


On Saturday morning, Michael Ball, just back from a training ride with his team, met with the press in downtown Palo Alto, the scene of Sunday's prologue start, to address this issue. The owner of Rock and Republic clothing was adamant that none of the members of his AToC team are involved in any active doping investigation and he provided written documentation to back it up. Also provided to the media was a written letter to race organizers informing them of the same thing, that no rider on his AToC team is involved in an active doping investigation.

The passionate Ball was firm in stating that the riders named to his team, Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla, Tyler Hamilton and Kayle Legrande who have been linked to potential doping practices will start the race.  Micheal strongly denied that he would accept a reduced number of riders if the race organizers refuse to let the aforementioned teammates participate.


At the heart of Ball's insistence is his belief that under the current conditions in professional cycling, riders need to be given the benefit of the doubt, especially if there is no open doping investigation. Ultimately, he would like to form a rider's union, something which is commonplace in most high-profile professional sports.


At the time of this blog, AToC organizers had not issued any statements as to their plans with regards to this situation. Personally, I think we have to allow riders an "innocent until proven guilty" attitude.  This is their job and how they put food on the table. Keeping someone from making a living based on rumor, innuendo or unproven charges is simply not fair.


I am hoping that a solution that is fair to the teams as well as the race can be reached. The AToC has so much to offer to the fans, sponsors and teams that it would be sad to see something like this bring any dark clouds to the race. Hey, it is February in California, we have enough other dark clouds to worry about.



1,344 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, rock-racing, amgen-tour-of-california, michael-ball

Black is Blue

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Feb 8, 2008

I don't think anybody will ever consider me a walking fashion statement on

either side of the spectrum(maybe that's the silver lining!).  In fact, my

fashion sense is somewhere between sweat pants and blue jeans, but hey, I

don't care.  However, for those of you who religiously watch shows like "What

Not to Wear," "Project Runway" and "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style", here is a blog

just for you.


The third annual Amgen Tour of California kicks off in about a week and based

on my recent visits to some of the pro team camps, we just might have an

honest-to-god fashion emergency.  I remember a few years back when powder blue

was the 'in' color so much so that a number of pro teams changed their jerseys

to include the azur shade.  Well, it looks like black is the new blue.  No less

than three pro teams, BMC, Rock Racing and High Road Sports are wearing

predominately black racing kit.


Call me a colorcist, but I am having a hard time distinguishing between the

three different squads.  Add to the fact that the riders will be going upwards

of 30 mph as they rocket down the beautiful California coastline and any subtle

differences such as sponsors logos might just become a blur.


Rumour has it that High Road Sports may be rolling out a new team kit with

a predominately white theme.  But, wait, it looks like the BMC boys are riding

white jerseys as well.  Oh man, what is a cycling fan to do?  Obviously, there

are subtleties between the jersey designs, but I am not a subtle guy.


OK.  Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but I am always on the

verge of getting arrested by the Fashion Police so maybe this is my pitiful

attempt at obtaining a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Regardless of what any of

the jerseys look like for the 17 teams participating in the AToC, I am certain

that the riders filling said jerseys are some of the best racers in the world. And,

c'mon that's what it is all about anyway, isn't it?



1,410 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, tour-of-california, rock-racing, bmc-professional-cycling-team, high-road-sports, amgen-tour-of-california


Posted by Bruce E Hildenbrand Jan 19, 2008

It appears the news that Italian super sprinter Mario Cipollini has signed with Rock Racing were a bit premature. That doesn't mean that Cipo is heading back to the land of fine wine and pasta for good.  It just means that the negotiations aren't over. Where's Donald Trump when you need him?  Personally, I hope Mario signs and has a presence in the US. I am sure The Donald would allow him to be a judge at his Miss America pageant.


In light of being in limbo over Super Mario's future, I thought I would recount my most favorite story about the flamboyant Italian. In 2002, I was covering the spring classic in Northern France and Belgium for Cycle Sport Magazine. It was a blast.  If you have never been to the classics, you should go and don't forget to bring your bike and some warm and waterproof clothing.


Anyway, the Tour of Flanders ranks just behind Paris-Roubaix in prestige and some consider it even more difficult. This is the event to win if you are Belgian. The great Belgian cyclist Peter Van Petegem once told me that after he won the Tour of Flanders he never had to worry about getting a speeding ticket (and boy did he love to drive his Volvo 760 fast). When he would get pulled over the cops would recognize him and just let him go. Unfortunately, Belgium is implementing a lot of photo radar and Van Petegem mused that his lead-footed days were soon to be over.


Hey, but this is about Mario and here's the story. The Tour of Flanders is around 165-miles long and has about 20 named short climbs most of which are cobbled and reach grades of up to 23%. In 2002, Cipollini, who is nota noted climber and seems to disappear on all but the flattest of courses, was leading the UCI World Cup, the precursor to the current Pro Tour. As such he felt a need to defend his leader's jersey and rode exceptionally strongly to win the field sprint and finish 9th overall.


As Cipo crossed the line, a female TV reporter approached him and asked, "Do you want a massage?" Now you have to remember that Mario had just ridden 165 of the hardest miles there are in pro cycling, something that would have left lesser men near collapse. But not Cipo. He looked straight at the reporter and asked, "Are we talking a therapeutic massage or a sexual massage?" The reporter answered, "a therapeutic massage."  Mario responded, "a therapeutic massage? No, not a therapeutic massage."


Man, we need this dude back in cycling!




ps - anyone got a favorite Cipo story? Let's hear them.

1,593 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, mario-cipollini, super-mario, rock-racing, tour-of-flanders


Posted by Bruce E Hildenbrand Jan 18, 2008


After months of rumours and speculation, it appears that Italian sprinter

Mario Cipollini has signed onto the Rock Racing team as rider/manager for

2008.  Whoa!  What "Super Mario's" role will be with the team is yet

undetermined, but one thing is for sure, the US domestic professional racing

scene just got a whole lot more interesting.


The 2002 World Champion can certainly pedal a bike and even at the age of 40,

he will shortly turn 41, he will undoubtedly be capable of winning races in

America.  But, more importantly, he is a showman.  A rider of "rock star"

quality who brings charisma and presence just by showing up.  From his

outrageous cycling attire to the time he left the Tour of Spain prematurely so

he could be a judge at the Miss Italy competition this guys makes headlines

both on and off the bike.


Does the US domestic scene need "il Leone" as Cipo is known to his Italian

tifosi?  With all the doping scandals running rampant through the cycling

community Mario just could be the breath of fresh air to get people's minds

thinking the glass is half full and not half empty.  We need to be reminded

of why cycling is such a great sport, not only in which to participate, but

also to watch.


Mario's wins in both the Giro, where he holds the all-time record for stage

victories, and the Tour de France are things of beauty, executed with style

and perfection.  One question that still lingers is if the Rock Racing team

can assemble an effective leadout train with which to deliver the flamboyant

Italian to the line.  My guess is with a marquee name like Cipollini on your

squad, you go get support for the kick to the finish.


Cipo's signing fills a couple of roles for Rock Racing.  The team is in dire

need of a director sportif after the recent departure of Frankie Andreu.  Also,

with the parity among the US domestic pro teams having a bunch sprinter is

almost mandatory if you want to win races.  Unfortunately, Cipo's lack of

knowledge of the US race courses, the only race he has ridden in America is the

Tour of Georgia, may provide a steep learning curve if he is called on to lead

the squad from the team car.  At 40, his best days are probably behind him

which means that he will most likely not be a candidate to ride the more

difficult stage races or hilly one-day events.


My guess is that we will see Cipo at the upcoming Tour of California behind the

wheel of a Rock Racing vehicle and not in the saddle.  Given the rumours of how

he drives around Italy, even that scenario is sure to give race fans, and race

officials, something to talk about.   Benvenuto in America Mario!







ps - what do you all out there think about Mario coming to America?



1,521 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, mario-cipollini, super-mario, tour-of-california, rock-racing