Rock Racing to Fuji for 2009?
By James Huang
Fuji designed this special edition SL-1 Photo ©: Fuji Bicycles
While much of the professional peloton seems to be playing musical chairs in terms of bike sponsorship for the coming season, Michael Ball’s Rock Racing team has toyed with more bike brands this season on its own then many retail shops carry on their shelves.
Rock Racing spent the ’07 season on Scott bicycles and then made a very brief switch to Look before ultimately settling with DeRosa for ’08. However, according to Rock Racing team manager Haldene Morris, the agreement isn’t with DeRosa directly but rather with US importer Trialtir and only covers a specific number of bikes. As such, the team doesn’t have as many DeRosas as it’d like and team riders have been spotted on a variety of non-DeRosa machines this year including Scott, Look and even Cannondale (former rider Mario Cipollini supplied his own custom frames made by a favored builder in Italy). Most notably, Rock Racing’s Tyler Hamilton even won this year’s USA Pro national road title not with the team-issue DeRosa, but on a Fuji SL-1 instead.
Meanwhile, Rock Racing’s Tour of Missouri squad was spotted aboard a brand-new Fuji time trial machine. We’re sure to get more information on this decidedly swoopy model at Interbike but suffice to say there are a number of intriguing features including a reverse-mounted front brake and fully-shrouded rear plus an integrated seatmast mechanism similar to that of Trek’s new Madone.
According to Fuji Bikes marketing and communications manager Karen Bliss, the unofficial pairing of Fuji and Rock Racing dates as far back as the Commerce Bank Triple Crown (better known as ‘Philly Week’). Freddy Rodriguez had apparently crashed and broken his DeRosa the day before the men’s pro road race and the team didn’t have a proper spare.
Coincidentally though, Fuji happened to be located in Philadelphia and Bliss already had a connection with the team. "I knew his mechanic from the old days and he knew that I was working with Fuji", she said. After a couple of quick phone calls, Rodriguez had a Fuji SL-1 at the ready. As it turns out, Rodriguez ended up using team-mate Oscar Sevilla’s spare for the race but the wheels were already in motion, so to speak.
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