Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team Dies Ultimo 2008
As a follow up to the team’s announcement released May 2, 2008, when the team stated they were in search of a new Title sponsor for 2009, Team Owner, Sean Tucker, held a conference call earlier today with his riders, staff and management. He announced to the team that although there were ongoing discussions with two potential Title sponsors, the team would not be able to have a contract signed within the UCI team license registration deadline for Pro Continental status in order to keep this specific group of riders together for the 2009 season. In effect, this means that the team as it has been known for three years in name, and the current composition of riders, staff and management will cease to exist as of December 31, 2008.
“Although, most of our riders are under contract until December 31, 2008 and we are not obligated to release them prior to this date, we have decided that even though we think we will have a new sponsor signed by the end of November for Continental Team status in 2009, we do not want to put the riders in a position of not being able to obtain employment in the event our sponsorship contract is not ultimately signed leaving the riders in a bad spot,” said Tucker.
“It’s truly a pity that we were not able to get a contract signed in time to keep our family together going forward, even though we have a couple of sponsors who can potentially sign in the coming months,” continued Tucker. Due to most marketing planning budget cycles, corporations are unable to make financial decisions and therefore sign contracts until the fourth quarter which is past the UCI’s registration deadline for Pro Continental status. In addition, with the recent UCI rule changes for Continental Team status, teams cannot hire more than four specialists to compensate for older age riders in order to comply with the UCI requirement of the teams’ majority of riders being under age 28. The average age of the majority of Toyota-United’s riders have been over 28, but with the pre-existing specialist rule, they have been in compliance with the UCI guidelines for three consecutive years.
“In any other industry this rule would qualify as age discrimination, but not in the world of cycling, where a team cannot race without a UCI approved team license governed exclusively by UCI rules and issued by each countries home cycling federation who are required to enforce such rules. Today I was forced to tell my riders that although I have money burning a hole in my pocket to support the team and we have contractual commitments from many of our current sponsors for 2009, we cannot give them a job because they are either too old, or we don’t have enough time to sign our new sponsor by the imposed UCI deadline to become either a Continental or Pro Continental team in 2009,” continued Tucker.
Toyota-United has competed in America’s largest stage races such as the Amgen Tour of California, Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri the past two-plus seasons and won 89 stages (races), thereby solidifying the team’s status as the most successful team in the world on American soil in these premier events. The competition has included many of the teams that race in the Tour de France, the world’s biggest sporting event. Toyota-United has worked diligently to represent what is good and positive about the sport of cycling through fair play and hard work. In addition, the team currently boasts 59 wins and 132 podiums in 2008 and a grand total of 155 wins since the team’s launch February 9, 2006.
Toyota-United consists of 14 riders from seven different countries, with representation from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Cuba, Serbia and Mexico. The team includes current UCI B World Road Race Champion and 2008 Olympian Ivan Stevic, from Serbia. Also on the team are riders Dominique Rollin, the 2008 Amgen Tour of California Stage 4 winner and overall sprint jersey winner from Quebec, Canada, Ivan Dominguez Stage 1 winner 2008 AT & T Tour De Georgia and wearer of the yellow jersey for two days and Jose Manuel (Chepe) Garcia, the 2008 National Time Trial champion from Mexico.
Tucker further added that “If our team continues, we will certainly have some significant changes due to the new UCI rules. We are looking forward to securing a new partner for the 2009 season by the end of November who can benefit from and build their brand by being associated with our world class organization. We are confident another sponsor will capitalize on the value United Pro Cycling Team generates with our 25,000 registered fans, eight-figure annual measurable media exposure, 3.3 million annual onsite spectators and the charitable work our team does in the communities we race in.”
In addition to winning races, Toyota-United has emphasized giving back to the communities they race in. As showcased on Larry King Live last July, Toyota-United currently sponsors endurance cyclist and amputee Dan Sheret on his Ability Trek, a global bike ride around the world to raise money and awareness for victims of limb loss through land mine explosions. The team also supports the Wounded Warriors Project and most recently the Chrysalis organization in Los Angeles, who aids homeless through providing job training and placement with a 93% success ratio.