Entering his 12th and final year as a professional, American road racer Tony Cruz has signed with Rock Racing for the 2010 season.
Cruz has spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons riding for US Professional Continental team BMC Racing but the 37-year-old Long Beach, California native opted to leave the squad as it shifts to a European focus for 2010.
"With BMC, they're stepping it up and I think all of the riders are moving to Europe next year," Cruz told Cyclingnews. "I did six or seven years of that [with US Postal and Discovery Channel] and I'm coming back more to US racing.
"It was too much of a commitment for me for one year and with my wife and three kids it was going to be difficult to manage. I'll be 38 on Halloween this year and I'm not getting any younger. I've got a lot on my plate; I'm working for the city of Long Beach as their bicycle ambassador and that's got me pretty busy.
"I guess I needed to figure out a way to transition from pro cycling to a post-cycling career. There's a lot of things to look forward to and I think now's a good time to make that transition. I only planned on doing one more year of racing and I needed to be closer to home more."
Rock Racing will provide Cruz an opportunity to race internationally in his final year as a pro while still enabling him to reside and train at home. "I'll definitely be racing out of the country, but I won't have to base myself out of Europe," said Cruz. "I can still live here in Long Beach and fly in and out."
Cruz, a veteran of both the Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia while racing for US Postal and Discovery Channel, including Paolo Savoldelli's 2005 Giro victory, wanted to compete at least once in the Tour de France before he retired, but he didn't think that opportunity would occur in 2010 with BMC Racing.
"I don't think that's going to happen next year and that's another thing that I had to consider," said Cruz. "I think they can do the Giro or Vuelta, but I'm not 100 percent sure that they'll be ready to do the Tour. From a staffing standpoint they're not a ProTour team yet so there's no guarantee. I don't know if it's ever going to happen so I had to pull the plug on that one."
Rock Racing had a rather turbulent 2009 season, with several riders being cut from the roster due to financial distress, but Cruz has confidence in team owner Michael Ball regarding next year's squad.
"I guess the advantage I have over a lot of the guys who've worked for Rock Racing in one capacity or another is that I've known Michael Ball since I was either 15 or 16 years of age," said Cruz. "We've always had a really good relationship and I'm pretty amazed at what he's been able to accomplish. I think he has a lot of respect for me as a rider and I think it will all work out just fine."
Cruz has been a rider of interest to Ball for some time and he's pleased to have the veteran pro join Rock Racing. "We are thrilled to have Tony on this team," said Ball. "We've been wanting to work with Tony for a long time. He's one of the stalwarts of the peloton - he's a hard worker, a great all-round rider and a true teammate in every sense of the word. He's going to be a great addition."
Cruz, the 1999 US professional criterium champion and seven-time top-five finisher in the event, has high hopes for his final season as a professional.
"I do want to go out on top, especially in the US," he said. "I want to win the National Racing Calendar (NRC), I want to have the national title on the road and criterium. I'm not just riding the gravy train next year, I want to go out with a bang."
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