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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Cycling News Extra, February 16, 2008

Edited by Sue George

AEG holds firm against Puerto-implicated riders as Rock Racing considers options

By Gerard Knapp

Michael Ball announced to the press his roster for the 2008 Tour of California.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Is Rock Racing heading for a humbling backdown or a withdrawal from the Tour of California? That appears to be the unresolved matter following another press conference held Saturday afternoon where the owner of the Tour of California, AEG, reiterated its stance in regard to team selections and said it would not allow the preferred roster of the emerging USA squad, Rock Racing, to enter its event that starts tomorrow.

Earlier in the day, Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball held his own press conference where he said the full team of eight riders was entitled to race, including Santiago Botero, Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla.

However, these three riders have been rejected by AEG, as they are alleged to have involvement in the recently re-opened Operación Puerto doping investigation in Spain. AEG claims that Ball signed an agreement that said the organiser would have the right to confirm team selections and could omit any rider that was seen to be still subject to an ongoing investigation.

At the press conference, Andrew Messick from AEG told reporters, "the only [Rock Racing] riders to start are those on the official roster. With the UCI and USA Cycling we bent a few rules to include [Mario] Cipollini. Rock Racing has five riders and five will be able to start."

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The flamboyant Ball is clearly upset at what he feels is unfair treatment of these riders, and has vowed to fight AEG over its policy. What remains unclear is if the team will actually be on the start-line tomorrow morning. After his statements at his earlier press conference, there is speculation that Ball may withdraw his team from the event. A spokesperson for Rock Racing told Cyclingnews that "a team decision hasn't been made yet" when asked to confirm if the team will be at the start in Palo Alto.

The Rock Racing riders permitted by AEG to start tomorrow include Mario Cipollini (Ita), Michael Creed (USA), Doug Ollerenshaw (USA), Victor Hugo Peña (Col) and Freddie Rodriguez (USA). The team will be severely depleted compared to the competition, although there was a suggestion that AEG may make a consideration for Rock Racing to boost its roster, though that could not be confirmed at press time.

It's expected that Rock Racing may make a subsequent statement later Saturday to clarify its position in regard to starting the 2008 Tour of California.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jonathan Devich/

Images by Elliot Holland (Stanford University Cycling Team)

Images by Luca Bettini

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