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Rock Racing: An Analysis

Posted on | September 7, 2008 |

Aw, hell. The Garmin-Chipotle guys dominated the US Cycling Pro Championships road race all day last Sunday only to lose a 110-mile race by an amount easily countable in millimeters. I first felt disappointment that one of the G-C guys didn’t win, and, secondly, I thought “Why did it have to be a Rock Racing guy that won?”

If it isn’t obvious, I don’t like Rock Racing. Sure, it was Tyler Hamilton wearing the R/R kit crossing the line just ahead of Blake Caldwell. Tyler Hamilton, a guy who will forever carry a cloud of suspicion around him. But I really don’t know what I think about his deal, and as a reader letter to VeloNews put it “it’s so easy to be an armchair critic and forget that real people have to experience the impact of the statements of others.” Essentially, I’m not as bothered by the guy who won as much as the team he rides for. And, honestly, I’m not sure why Rock Racing annoys me so much. So, I’m doing an analysis — longbloghand style, in enumerated fashion.

1. Michael Ball - team owner. — He is obviously an intelligent, ambitious, and successful entrepreneur. And, I truly appreciate his support of cycling and various charitable causes. However, his “style” makes me bristle. In an interview with PezCycling he quips that “if you work for me you’ll cry, crack or get stronger!” Sounds peachy! Where do I apply? (Actually, Mr. Ball, you could use a web developer, but I’ll get to that.)

2. The kit is ugly. — Cycling team kits are no stranger to the awkward balance between acceptable and questionable, and often highly questionable, design. Such is life when trying to find each sponsor an acceptable location for a logo. However, in true Michael Ball fashion, the Rock Racing kit boldy leaps right into ugly territory. I will say that it’s nice that one can tell that the kit is actually designed, but that doesn’t keep it out of ugly territory. And remember, ugly design doesn’t come cheap, so be prepared to drop over $200 if you want a jersey of your own (god forbid).

3. The website is, um, not my favorite. — I’m a web developer, so, like it or not, this could get long. However, before I get all negative, I will say that it’s coded cleanly and has many nice design touches. But on to the laundry list:

  • A splash screen that serves no apparent purpose. Splash screens are rarely useful or necessary. Even less necessary is requiring website viewers to make an extra click through a page with no content save for a Rock Racing logo that is only slightly larger than the one displayed on every single page of the website.
  • A black background with low contrast header and link text. I accept that a dislike for black backgrounds on websites may be a girl thing, but at least make the text on the site be a high contrast color so it’s easily readable.
  • It has a marquee. Fine, I’ll acquiesce that’s it’s not as bad as circa 1995 marquees. However, at least have it scroll the correct way.
  • The repetition. As of shortly after the race, “redemption” was plastered no fewer than three places on the main page. (Aside: Is that really what they want to attach to Tyler’s win?)
  • The photos under Galleries on the main page aren’t linked to the larger version. One has to go to “more photos” then find the photo to view at a larger size. In that same vein, the Press & News headers aren’t linked to the full news item.

4. I’m very obviously not its target market. — The Rock Racing brand with its dark, skull and crossbones motif, dark website, and its ceaseless attempt at “edginess” is not one that appears to be targeted at the late 20s, female demographic. Honestly, I don’t think Rock Racing could brand itself in a way less appealing to me. I even ventured in to read the R/R forums and found none of my kind there either.

5. No personal attachments to any team riders. — I can’t say that I really follow any of the guys on the team and thus have no attachment to their success or non-success. Most of the names are familiar, yes, but I’m not invested.

6. Discretionary irrationalness. — It’s been established before that I have a tendency towards small amounts of irrationalness. I accept this.

Again, I’ll say that I appreciate anyone investing in cycling, and Michael Ball has certainly done that. I just think the “bad boy” image he has created for the team is not for me.

The obvious quandary, though, is what to do when a racer I really do like ends up on Rock Racing. As often as guys change teams, this is bound to happen not too far in the future. Crap. I’m not going to think about that right now.

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