Rock Racing is adding an experienced management structure to its already powerful roster by announcing the hiring of Director Sportif Rudy Pevenage and Assistant Director Laurenzo LaPage.
“Without a doubt, we have two of the most experienced director sportifs that cycling has produced in the last 20 years,” Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball said. “Rudy built a dynasty with the powerful Telekom and T-Mobile teams, while Laurenzo comes to us from Astana, a team that has won three of the past five Grand Tours.”
Pevenage and LaPage are part of an elite group of Belgians who have been successful in management in professional cycling. Joining them on that list are current Astana Director Sportifs Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol and former Astana Director Walter Godefroot.
“With these two heading up our team, Rock Racing will have the infrastructure to compete against the very best,” Ball said. “The caliber of riders on the bike will be matched by brilliant leadership behind the scenes.”
Pevenage, 54, followed a successful cycling career of his own with a management career that included stints with Histor (1989), Telekom/T-Mobile (1994-2002) and Coast/Bianchi (2003). He guided Jan Ullrich to victory at the 1997 Tour de France victory and three of his charges swept the podium at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia: Ullrich (gold), Alexander Vinokourov (silver), Andreas Kloeden (bronze).
During his own cycling career from 1976 to 1988, Pevenage won more than two dozen races, including the second stage of the Tour de France in 1980 (on the way to winning the points classification) as well as the team time trial stage of the Giro d’Italia in 1985. Pevenage explained to Cyclingnews why he decided to return to the sport. "[Ivan] Basso is making his comeback, a lot of riders are making a comeback; If I could not make a comeback then I would not understand that – I did not kill someone, you know."
It will be his first job back within a cycling team since the 2006 scandal, and the Belgian explained that he is ready for any of the negative publicity that may come because of his former links to Operación Puerto and the doctor at the center of the scandal, Eufemiano Fuentes.
"You know I was out of my job for two and half years and it [cost] a lot of money on lawyers and problems," he added. "I think I paid enough for the phone calls to Fuentes. ... The calls to Fuentes were the reason they, Telekom, put me out."
Pevenage will not only direct the team, but also provide Ball with important contacts in Europe. The American wants to see his team race more in Europe for the 2009 season. The team is barred from entering cycling's top events, like the Tour and Giro d'Italia, because of its third division status.
"I saw the organisation of Rock Racing when I went to LA [Los Angeles]. I saw the way they are working and they are a very organised team. I know the riders that are there, not all of them, but a lot of them.
"For me it is not important that it is a continental [team]," Pevenage said. "My goal will be to bring the team up to a higher level. ... I have contacted several race organisations in Spain, Belgium and Germany in the last three to four days, and I am waiting for the answers. ... I am sure that with this team we will go to several races. There are enough races that we can go to prove that we are okay."
Pevenage believes that Ullrich will not follow in his steps and make a cycling comeback. He ruled out his former protégé coming back for 2009, but hesitated to cancel the thought completely for the subsequent seasons.
"Jan and Michael spoke, but it is not my business. ... Michael said, 'I want to meet Jan, he is a very nice man and I was always a fan of his.' They met each other [in Los Angeles] and it was very nice for them. I think that there can be a place for Jan, but I don't know and it is only speculation."
LaPage (R) worked with US Postal, Discovery and Astana after racing professionally
LaPage, 42, helped direct Italian Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) to victory at the 2005 Giro d’Italia and he was also part of the Discovery Channel staff when Lance Armstrong won his fifth (2003) and sixth (2004) Tours de France. LaPage raced professionally from 1989 to 2002. Laurenzo's father, Nico Lapage, is a leading manufacturer of cycle clothing and supplies jerseys for many of the European six-day events.
Ball said while Rock Racing fans can expect the team’s familiar flamboyant approach in 2009, there will be some changes that are not so noticeable – including a more comprehensive internal anti-doping program.
“We are spending more money this year to hire the best riders and the best staff that go along with being one of the top professional cycling teams in the world,” he said. “We are also investing a lot of time, energy and money in 2009 on increased anti-doping measures through Scott Analytics.”
Rock Racing is the only U.S.-based professional team that has had an internal anti-doping program in place – uninterrupted – since April. The team’s testing program was developed by respected anti-doping researcher and Scott Analytics Founder and President, Paul Scott, who also served as Director of Clients at the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory and Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Agency for Cycling Ethics, Inc.