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Rock Racing is hoping the good times will roll

The team has been hurt by doping allegations, but its chief executive says things are better.

June 30, 2008|Chris Hine | Times Staff Writer

If Michael Ball, the chief executive of Rock Racing, has his way, cycling fans will see more skulls and crossbones at future races.

In the last year, Rock Racing, known not only for its cryptic logo but also for its three team members allegedly linked to an ongoing doping investigation in Spain, has had trouble getting all of its riders into races.

Most notably, Ball did not register the three riders -- Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla and former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton, who also served a two-year doping suspension from 2004 to 2006 -- in February's Tour of California after AEG Sports, the race's organizer, told Ball the riders were not eligible for the event.

In April, all members of Rock Racing were allowed to compete in the Tour de Georgia, but only after Ball threatened legal action when organizers tried to deny the team entry into the race.

Speaking Sunday at the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, a race won by Rock Racing's Rahsaan Bahati, Ball said his team shouldn't have as many headaches trying to get into future races.

"I think the worm has turned," Ball said. "I get more 'good jobs,' 'thattaboys' and 'you're good for the sport,' instead of boos and hisses."

Ball, who also announced the creation of the Professional Cycling Catastrophic Fund (an organization designed to assist cyclists who suffer severe injuries while participating in the sport), said last year many in the sport viewed Rock Racing as "a joke."

He added that this year the team received invitations for four European races and is still exploring other opportunities to compete in the U.S.

"I don't think we're going to have the controversy and negative press we had at the beginning of the year," Ball said.

"If you break it down, all we're trying to do is promote the sport and foster it and make it cooler."

Even if Rock Racing runs into trouble down the road with race organizers, Ball said Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla, who were eligible but did not participate in Sunday's race because of other commitments, would remain a part of his team because they "have every right to ride."

Said Rock Racing member Fred Rodriguez: "Right now, the way the sport is, it's kind of a kamikaze. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing's for sure."

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chris.hine@latimes.com

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