Andy Shen of Velocitynation, who first brought us the news of the Armstrong comeback, reports in a brief notice today that Rock Racing "is folding ASAP." According to Shen, who saw an internal memo from sponsor Rock and Republic, the company is laying off 40 employees and shutting down the cycling team effective immediately.
Ben Delaney and Neal Rogers at VeloNews confirmed the existence of the email and that high-end fashion company had laid off employees as a consequence of economic difficulties. The team spokesman, Sean Weide, told VeloNews that a "number" of employees "both on the Rock Racing and on the clothing side" have lost their jobs. However, Weide refused to provide any further information, and VeloNews has not yet proved able to confirm that the team will close down. VeloNews did speak with Rasaan Bahati's agent, who said that communication with the team had been "spotty" recently.
Rock Racing has offered the gift that kept on giving during this off-season. First, the roster was too old, then too big. Next, the team hired Rudy Pavenage, the former advisor and Fuentes hook-up to Jan Ullrich. Then came demotion of several riders from the pro team to an amateur team, among them the US Pro Criterium Champion, Bahati. Now, it appears that the entire team may be on the rocks.
Update: The team has issued an official statement confirming that it will continue next season. Here is the text:
Rock Racing will continue to race in 2009. Tyler Hamilton, Rahsaan Bahati and Justin Williams will defend their U.S. national titles. More important information about the team’s plans will follow. We appreciate your interest and continued support of Rock Racing.
No doubt there is more to come on this story.