Rock Racing Q&A

01.31.2008 | 9:20 pm

rockracing Much has recently been made of the "Rock Racing" professional cycling team, what with the wacky, hilariously insane behavior of the owner, Michael Ball, as well as some of the cyclists he has hired for the 2008 season. And while Ball’s management style can be truly be called anything but dull, the same thing can also be said of a pickaxe to the groin.

What, then, should a self-respecting cyclist think of Rock Racing? Certainly, you’ve been asking yourself that question, along with others, such as:

  1. Should I root for them, since they’ve got some of my favorite racers of days gone by?
  2. Should I hate them for face-slapping a sport which frankly is all slapped-out at the moment?
  3. Should I just grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy the circus?

These are all excellent questions, none of which I intend to answer. I will, however, endeavor to answer some of your other pressing questions about this most unlikely of pro racing teams.

Question: So what’s the deal with this Michael Ball guy?
Answer: Michael Ball is the owner of Rock & Republic, a clothing store not in any way affiliated with Banana Republic. If you find yourself confusing the two, you can easily resolve your befuddlement by remembering that Banana Republic sells clothes in more colors than black and also carries some items that cost less than $300.00 (I think that converts to about 0.4 Euros right now).

The reason that Rock & Republic is able to sell clothes for the square of their actual value is because Michael Ball brings attitude to those clothes. And by "attitude," I mean that he augments his natural unlikeability with aggressive meanness, and the confidence brought on by the self-certainty that he is never, ever, ever wrong.

In fourth grade, you called people like this "bullies."

Well, now he owns a bike team. And he has not yet realized that at some point (possibly already reached), nobody is going to want to do business with him.

For this reason, you should by default hope for the failure of the Rock Racing bike team, and feel a certain amount of glee whenever a racer leaves the team or Ball has a tantrum stemming from his staggering oafishness.

And as a point of honor, you should never wear jeans that cost more than $40. (a sum which no longer translates to anything at all in Euros).

88frankie Question: Why isn’t Frankie Andreu the director of Rock Racing anymore?
Answer: This separation stemmed from an honest disagreement between Frankie and Mr. Ball.

On one hand, Frankie thought the directeur sportif of Rock Racing would be in charge of both strategic and tactical operations for the team, from the hiring of the racers to the race-day plans.

On the other hand, Michael Ball thought main job of the directeur sportif of Rock Racing was to run odd errands, chauffeur the team Escalade, and give Mr. Ball soothing neckrubs when he is feeling stressed out.

The truth is, though, Michael Ball fired Andreu because he discovered that Andreu had used — and then kept secret for many years — EPO as a professional cyclist, and that kind of unethical behavior is simply not to be tolerated on this team.


Question: I heard that Tyler Hamilton’s on the team, too. Is that true?
Answer: Yes. Yes, it is. Here’s a picture of him in a group picture at the Rock Racing Spring camp (from the Bahati Racing blog).


Looks like he’s really enjoying himself, doesn’t it?

Question: But I thought Tyler was supposed to be this really nice guy. I can’t imagine him wearing the Rock Racing skull and crossbones kit and hanging around someone like Michael Ball.
Answer: Maybe he’s become bitter and angry.

Question: Do you think maybe he’s become bitter and angry enough that at some point he’ll punch Michael Ball in the throat?
Answer: That would be awesome.

Question: I heard Mario Cipollini is also racing for Rock Racing. When was Cipo caught doping?
Answer: Actually, you aren’t strictly required to be a known doper to be on the Rock Racing team.

Question: So why is Cipollini on the Rock Racing team, if he is in fact on the racing team?
Answer: If Cipollini is on the Rock Racing team — and we are happy to both confirm and deny that this is the case — it is for one extremely important reason: Cipollini looks like someone who would wear $300 pants.

Question: I understand that Michael Ball told his racers he had to win, or be fired.
Answer: Actually, he now claims he said something different, but with the same meaning.

Question: OK, that’s fine, but really my question was: does Ball know anything at all about bike racing? I mean, even one little thing? Does he even know what a domestique is?
Answer: No.

Question: You know, now that I think about it, "Win or Be Fired" would make a great premise for a reality show.
Answer: You mean, every week have a bunch of semi pro racers do a race and the winner gets to be on a newly-formed pro cycling team?

Question: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was thinking.
Answer: You’re right. That would be a great reality show. Michael Ball has missed his calling.

Question: So what is "Fast Freddie" Rodriguez doing on the team?
Answer: Regretting his decision, most likely.

Question: Do you suppose it’s ever occurred to Fast Freddie that putting "Fast" in his name is a little bit weird? I mean, are there any professional cyclists that aren’t fast?
Answer: You miss Fast Freddie’s point. He’s not putting the "Fast" in "Fast Freddie" because he thinks he’s faster than other cyclists. He is merely asserting that of all Freddies in the universe, he is among the fast.

Question: And how about Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botera?
Answer: I’m sorry, I’m losing interest. Could we wrap this up?

Question: I just have a couple of questions left. What about the Rock Racing jerseys — Is it OK for me to wear their jersey?
Answer: Only if you also wear an eye patch and have a parrot perched on your shoulder.

Question: What would happen if you put Team Slipstream / Chipotle in the same room as Rock Racing?
Answer: The universe would implode in much the same way as if matter and antimatter were to collide.

PS: The banner photo for February is of Jill Homer, of Up in Alaska fame. Jill’s going to be competing in the Iditarod Trail Invitational on the 24th of this month. Make sure you swing by her blog and wish her a great race.


  1. Comment by Logan | 01.31.2008 | 10:16 pm

    This is, without a doubt, the funniest thing you’ve posted to date.
    “Actually, you aren’t strictly required to be a known doper to be on the Rock Racing team.”

  2. Comment by Weean | 02.1.2008 | 12:13 am

    I’ve still got Fatty on my banner. Is it not February in Utah yet?

    Rock Racing is one of the funniest things to have happened to pro cycling in years, but lets not forget that the riders are real human beings too. You’ve got to think that Fast Freddie will not be the only racer questioning his decision. I’m kind of caught between questions 2 & 3.

    And for a fashion chain, aren’t their jerseys resally ugly? Am I just too old, or too European?

  3. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.1.2008 | 2:32 am

    What is chipotle anyway?

  4. Comment by Pammap | 02.1.2008 | 3:46 am

    I love this one! How could you know all of the questions I was pondering? You truly do have super powers.

    I rode in an elevator with an R&R racer last year at the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville AR. When I complemented his bike – it was truly beautiful – he replied, “Thanks, it should be beautiful, it cost $10,000.” I just smiled and gave him a nod thinking something motherly like he should have just said “thank you” and then shut up. I guess I was supposed to be impressed with the money. Instead I was impressed with his lack of manners.

    I wrote it off to his being young and not well reared but maybe he was just following the company manual on how-to-behave-in-public. Who knew?

  5. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.1.2008 | 4:12 am

    I’m speechless!

  6. Comment by cyclostu | 02.1.2008 | 4:59 am

    I think the whole “circus” reference at the beginning of your post is probably the most acurate description. Well it’s currently a circus with the potential of becoming a train wreck, a boondoggle,
    or some sort of a gladitorial contest.

  7. Comment by Yeagermeister | 02.1.2008 | 5:11 am

    I’ve made enough popcorn for everyone.

  8. Comment by Mike | 02.1.2008 | 5:20 am

    @buckythedonkey: chipotle is a very ripe and smoked jalapeno pepper. It is also a restaurant chain that serves oversize burritos that should constitute the average americans daily caloric intake.

    I guess since it’s not legal to strap a rocket to a cyclist’s ass, they will instead feed them jalapeno peppers and refried beans to supercharge the gaseous discharges that are naturally produced. If that doesn’t work, the resulting diarhea will urge the rider to the finish line faster. Or the odor will clear the peloton. Watch for Phil Liggett’s special segment on how this strategy plays out during stage 3 of the TdF this year.

  9. Comment by Uphill Battle | 02.1.2008 | 6:03 am

    Fatty, I can see why Bike Radar might shy away from this one! Too bad for them. This is one of your most insightful posts! I’ll fire up the popcorn machine!

  10. Comment by Capn Crunchy | 02.1.2008 | 6:24 am

    Hey, nice PhotoChop of their logo. It’s a crazy toothless happy pirate flag!


  11. Comment by Rob | 02.1.2008 | 6:35 am

    Absolutely classic!! Great effort, Fatty. “Maybe he’s become bitter and angry.”

    And the answer is #3!!

  12. Comment by dailytri | 02.1.2008 | 7:07 am

    How timely. I’m on a planning committee for a pro stage race here in Minnesota. The mens’ portion is invitational and there is much debate if RR even gets an invite because of the skull duggary and obvious scream for attention the owner is creating. Time will tell if the invite gets mailed.

  13. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.1.2008 | 7:35 am

    Good post, Fatty. I enjoy how you find the unexpected (and funny) angles.

    Pass the popcorn! Pro sports are open to all (who have the $$$). Sure cycling has some great history, but with all the money, squabbles and doping it’s hard to not be jaded. I don’t worry much: Ball will get his publicity / notoriety from this stunt, his team will do horrible, and a few years from now we’ll barely be able to remember team RR.

  14. Comment by Sk8rAl | 02.1.2008 | 7:50 am

    Very funny.

    R&R were here in the Milwaukee area last year for Superweek. The first sighting I had of them was the Escalade convoy. I found myself aksing: are they angry? are they gay? do they have gang affiliations? all of the above?

    They won some races and stuff. Will be interesting – the whole “pure” Slipstream team versus the “tainted” men in black on R&R.

    If nothing else, good potential for an entertaining trainwreck.

  15. Comment by Lifesgreat | 02.1.2008 | 8:50 am

    I assume this very funny post was destined for BikeRadar.

    I am going to the Tour of California and will see if they ride with parrots on their shoulders. Maybe the parrots can wear little aero helmets to cut down on drag.

    To answer your first three questions:
    1. no 2. no 3. YES, as Sk8rAl said this has good potential for an entertaining trainwreck. I will bring pizza, cheetos puffs and velveeta to the party.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall if Pat McQuaid and Michael Ball ever converse. . .

  16. Comment by DNAtsol | 02.1.2008 | 9:52 am

    I think of Michael Ball as the Marge Schott of cycling.

    PS. Are you using the Chinese calendar :) ? As mentioned above, I still see the “blowout” as the banner. Maybe you got your Julian’s and Gregorian’s mixed up again. I hate it when that happens. :D

  17. Comment by DNAtsol | 02.1.2008 | 9:54 am

    Doh! It switched as I was writing! Now I look like the true idiot I am. So much for keeping my mouth shut and having people wonder.

  18. Comment by Big Bird | 02.1.2008 | 10:03 am

    Honestly, it’s naive to think that Rock Racing is the dirtiest team in cycling. In fact, I think Ball’s posturing puts more pressure on the riders to stay clean.

    I’m waiting for the first positive to come from either Slipstream or High Road.

    There will always be cheaters. Real life is not like a Disney movie and “bad guys” don’t always wear black.

  19. Comment by odc | 02.1.2008 | 10:14 am

    After reading the comments and your funny rant, the best thing that could come of this, is when Rock racing kicks the crap out of JV and the saints from Slipstream.
    Question: Why doesn’t Slipstream have a Velonews logo on their jersey ? It would appear from my last issue that it isn’t anything more than a marketing publication for Slipstream. Are the guys at Velonews that lazy that they can’t get out of Boulder to cover anyone else ?
    If Rock Racing crashes and burns I’m sure there will be a party thrown everywhere. I’m really surprised that guys that call themselves self respecting cyclist would cheer the demise of any team under the current circumstance in cycling. Take a close look at the team roster, a lot of guys with good reputations, solid results and respected among other pro cyclists. You don’t like the owner, fine but don’t put all those guys in the same basket, their just rying to earn a living. Give those a chance and ignore the circus around them.

  20. Comment by db | 02.1.2008 | 10:38 am

    The minute I read an interview of Michael Ball, I disliked him. I’m not going to judge the team riders, but I am going to judge him — because he forces you to.

    Do I naively think the other teams are clean? No.

    Do I think the R&R team is dirty? No.

    Do I wish Frankie Andreu had pushed Ball off a cliff before he left? Oh yeah.

    I just want the guy to shut up. Making money off of brain-dead fashonistas does not make you smart or savvy. (That business model has been going on forever.) And it does not make whatever comes out of your mouth worth listening to.

  21. Comment by roadrash | 02.1.2008 | 10:57 am

    Michael Ball seems to be bringing the Vince McMahon/Don King school of sports promotion to cycling. Anyone for cage match smackdown team time trials?

  22. Comment by KT | 02.1.2008 | 11:04 am

    Haha!! I thought that was their REAL logo! :)

    Well, at least I think it looks better than their real logo.

    I think Mr Ball is setting his team image up as “bad boys” and to most cycling fans, that means “dopers and cheaters”. I’m sure all those guys on their team roster are good guys. Really.

  23. Comment by Susan (another one) | 02.1.2008 | 11:12 am

    heck with all that.

    Great pic of Jill

  24. Comment by Fan of Susan | 02.1.2008 | 11:14 am

    dnatsol – did your paunch fly up again?

  25. Comment by Sprocketboy | 02.1.2008 | 11:41 am

    If Cipollini is on the Rock Racing team — and we are happy to both confirm and deny that this is the case —it is for one extremely important reason: Cipollini looks like someone who would wear $300 pants.

    This is superb: Pulitzer Prize for Fatty.

  26. Comment by Don ( | 02.1.2008 | 11:46 am

    Very nice Fatty! By the way, since I last published the post about Slipstream / Chipotle they have gained a net weight of 562.83 pounds.

  27. Comment by fatty | 02.1.2008 | 11:58 am

    big bird / odc – it’s totally possible that rock racing will wind up being an awesome and clean team. and i cannot help myself: i will always cheer for tyler hamilton in every race he ever does. that said, the team owner has put the team in a ridiculous position, and so i ridicule it. it’s what i do.

    odc – why doesn’t slipstream have a velonews logo? that’s an excellent question, and about the same sentiment i just had a few minutes ago while looking at velonews. the cover headline is “fresh and clean” which seems like marketing copy, not journalism.

  28. Comment by bikesgonewild | 02.1.2008 | 12:57 pm

    …led zeppelin could kick ‘rock racings’ ass…

    …just sayin’…

  29. Comment by Derek | 02.1.2008 | 12:58 pm

    You forgot the part where they asked Floyd Landis to be the new director, but USA Cycling nixed it:

    At first, this reminded me of a stable of bad guys in the WWF. It’s great to have someone to boo. But in all honesty, these guys were either never proven as dopers or have served their suspensions. They’ve got a right to race just like everyone else.

    I think that Ball is obnoxious and that the Escalade thing is juvenile, but whatever. I’ll still be rooting for Slipstream.

  30. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.1.2008 | 1:59 pm

    In reality, Rock Racing is just an effort by the NRC series to bring innovation to the American peloton. You see in Europe, it’s the riders who throw water bottles at the fans…

  31. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.1.2008 | 2:00 pm

    I really like that racing has gotten to the point where some morn comes along and says: “Wouldn’t it be cool to base a team on the concept of having a different bad@ss kit for every race, and wearing a lot of black and making a statement by riding into town in an Ecalade convoy?”

    Seriously, folks, Fatty is not being funny, this IS the basis of the R&R team – check the website:

    …The sponsorship integrates the Rock & Republic aesthetic into cycling; creating stylized uniforms for various races and bringing high-end fashion with an adventurous flair to the cycling tour. So, when the Rock Racing Cycling Team shows up for a race they arrive with the same flare and edge that is synonymous with Rock & Republic.

    Rolling up in style, the four Cadillac Escalades and the Rock Racing Trailer deliver the first excitement of the day. Don’t expect just ordinary kits—not when Michael Ball is sponsoring you! The kits have a different color and design elements for each race adding both style and sex appeal to the sport…

    I cannot imagine that Michael Ball has any endurance as a sponser, but his circus is more fun to watch than Mitt vs. the “Straight Talk Express” or Baaaaraaak vs. Hillbilly.

  32. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 02.1.2008 | 2:24 pm

    I’m extremely impressed with the R&R budget. They must have spent a small fortune on the team photo containing Tyler. Photoshopping to remove everyone’s tourniquet and replace them a sleeve. Either that or it was a very atypical team camp.

  33. Comment by Max | 02.1.2008 | 5:36 pm

    Slipstream does actually have a relationship with Velonews, you guys aren’t making that up. I was talking to one of the writers. They just don’t advertise that fact because Velonews is trying to maintain their crediblity as an actual news sourse. Which they aren’t and never were… Seems kind of odd really. sponsors a team and is proud of it, I wonder why Velonews doesn’t just come out and say it?

  34. Comment by Born 4Lycra 43 11 N 2 32 W | 02.1.2008 | 5:57 pm

    Finally some one who looks better than me in an Orange Fc top. Jill – best of luck in the Iditarod thingy. Nice first choice for the banner FC.

    I know nothing (about most things actually) in relation to theis R and R mob. So I went to the website which was a frustrating exercise in itself and read the same stuff Clydesteve mentioned. I must admit without knowing any background information the idea of a noisy, flashy, colourful cycling team does not seem that out of place. The owner might be a dick but the concept sounds like it might add a bit a bit of pizzazz. I’m just sayin.

  35. Comment by Judi | 02.1.2008 | 6:31 pm

    Fatty – thanks for the explanation, I had no clue who this guy was. The BSNY also wrote about him a few weeks back.

  36. Comment by joliver3 | 02.1.2008 | 7:20 pm

    This is one of your Funniest. Posts. Ever. Hilarious! I too am appalled my Michael Ball and his huge in-your-face attitude.

    Since someone mentioned the racing team, I was wondering if I’m the only one who found it funny that their co-sponsor was a company called DFL….

    Good luck achieving whatever it is that your goal is for the Frozen Hog this weekend! And best wishes to Susan too!

  37. Comment by | 02.1.2008 | 8:07 pm

    BUCKY: (damn the caps lock-I need to disable it) The only thing that could make the hellacious mess that is Chipotle (the burrito not the pepper – better is a bottle (yes the whole bottle) of Cholula Hot Sauce ( Mmmmm… I think Fatty would agree on the Cholula at least.

  38. Comment by KT | 02.2.2008 | 10:00 am

    Clydesteve, thanks for digging up that info on their manifesto. “Sexy” new outfits for every race? Bringing “high fashion” to the peleton? Seriously, how is that possible in lycra and spandex???

    At least the pro guys can pull it off, but having a well-toned body is 99% of it.

    But at least the “win or be fired” thing makes sense; they can’t afford to keep everyone on with new kits for every race.

  39. Comment by catbox | 02.18.2008 | 7:23 am

    There are two things I found when I was 12 (back in 1980)….punk rock and bicycle racing. I still subscribe to both as a huge part of who I am. We have a word for people like Ball…it’s “Poseur”. Money seems to buy this guy whatever he wants and that includes a cycling team. The “bad boy” image of the team…manufactured…..just like his $300 pants. Right now this guy Ball has manufactured up some special cry baby, I’ve been crucified….kits for his dopers who have been excluded from the TOC….to parade around in while signing autographs. Who didn’t see this team as a joke when they first came on the scene?

    Have a nice day!

  40. Comment by Chloey | 02.22.2008 | 7:25 am

    It is interesting to see how Rock Racing is being received. All jokes aside, Micheal Ball’s clothing line is a success. And yes, jeans outside of Wal-mart and Target cost more then $40. He in fact, likes to grab the bull by the horns and is not afraid to jump on. I don’t think it is fair to criticize his amazing attempt to support AND sponsor his hobby in a world where it is kill or be killed. You don’t get ahead by being a nice guy. Not in racing or Fashion.

  41. Comment by RealDeal | 07.3.2008 | 10:00 am

    Don’t be naive folks, Ball knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s an act…and a darn good one. What makes for good ratings and a fan-base is drama. Where would Armstrong have been without Ullrich? Where would professional Football be without the Raiders?

    You hate him…but you love it, don’t you?
    Mark my words, you’re going to see kooks all over your favorite ride-routes rocking his kits too.

  42. Pingback by Triathlete Diva » Blog Archive » Johan Bruyneel Talks to Triathlete Diva | 07.13.2008 | 12:14 pm

    [...] owner, Michael Ball, is all of these things and then some. His actions have been described by the Fat Cyclist as “hilariously [...]

  43. Comment by Susie Corbett | 08.14.2008 | 6:02 pm

    My nephew Richard Cimadoro is the doctor for the Rock Team. I am very proud of him and his passion for cycling. The team is fortunate to have him on their team!!

  44. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Winners of the “Design Kenny’s Tattoo” Photoshop Contest | 08.26.2008 | 8:28 am

    [...] And then, showing a flare for in-jokes, Clay gave Kenny a nice new pair of bibshorts and a Rock Racing tattoo. [...]

  45. Comment by John | 09.6.2008 | 1:14 pm

    You know, with all the posturing of Rock Racing, I actually feel that they open the sport up to the many who feel that pro cycling has [tried to] become too european (read snobby). I ride an expensive bike, which cost me 5 figures, because I like it and saved up for it, not because I’m a bike racer or wealthy – but I’d never tell anyone how much it cost. I don’t race, I don’t know [or care] what a domestique is, and I don’t judge people by what they ride or whether they were a team bike kit. I love to ride, thats it. Rock Racing does for cycling, what Tony Stewart does for NASCAR – they make cycling interesting for the masses.
    Enough of the “elite-ist” euro attitude that cycling tries to portray! Make cycling fun and interesting. If Rock makes it a little toungue-in-cheek as well, so be it!…

  46. Comment by kencal | 10.12.2008 | 10:47 pm

    Rock Racing clothes design are cool, but too expensive

  47. Comment by Rock Racing Rocks!! | 03.5.2009 | 10:58 pm

    “And for a fashion chain, aren’t their jerseys resally ugly? Am I just too old, or too European?” comment from weean

    The answer to weean’s questions are Yes! and Yes!

    Rock Racing jersey……Rocks!!!!

  48. Comment by Anonymous | 04.25.2009 | 10:54 pm

    No wonder why

  49. Comment by Anonymous | 04.25.2009 | 11:29 pm

    Michael Ball of Rock Racing/Rock and Republic is the core issue of the team. Beginning with poor judgement on selecting controversial doping team. This judgement is based from Michael Ball daily use of snorting cocaine. He even provides to his Rock Racing ladies to entise them to have sex with him. I was one of them; now I’m out. No wonder why his team are the team of drug addicts includng Michael Ball. He is so drugged out in the morning that you don’t even realize he is on cocaine. So I’m not surprised about his team selection & having clouded judgement. He has sex without condom with the rock racing models cocaine & unprotected sex. so much drug he cannot keep the hard on.Quite frustrating. On cocaine , on weed to have sex with Michael Ball is a must because your mind is too clouded enough for the girl to realize he has indeed a small penis! all the girls he had sex with talk about this same thing. For those who hasn’t spoken about it is because they are scared. Cycling gives Michael Ball’s ball have the worst smell on their scrotum. Smells like spolied eggs. For the prospects out there to sponsor Rock Racing, think again. You are merely supporting Michael Ball’s cocaine and marijuana addiction. The more sponsors, the more money he has to support his addiction and to support his drug dealer of cocaine and marijuana. This is an URGENT WARNING to all prospective sponsors. This is real. your money, ideas marketing will be abandoned & will carry the stains that your company is supporting a drug addict. This the real thing.

  50. Comment by ROCK RACER | 06.12.2009 | 9:55 pm


  51. Comment by ROCK RACER | 06.12.2009 | 9:56 pm

    Im ouiting this team

  52. Comment by swilcher | 09.16.2010 | 12:01 am

    Just FYI fatty…Michael Ball had a dream of being a cyclist prior to Lance Armstrong…but he didn’t have the skills. So he decided to push his profits into bankrolling a team…a team no one would dare give him…or be willing to give a chance.
    I personally don’t like Michael Ball…he’s rude and egotistical at races (not anymore).
    But you gotta hand it to the guy…he got young kids to look at racing CLOSELY because of the kit design and the hot escalades. When you went to races…people were lined up dying to get autographs and pictures with riders and rides. No one was dying to see the others…until Lance got back in the game.

    Just saying


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