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By Neal Rogers
Before the Tour of Utah’s stage 4 twilight criterium began Friday, the start line was buzzing with the news that Toyota-United would not be returning in 2009.
“Maybe some guys are more surprised than others, but I’ve been in this game long enough to know that the sponsorship search is not an easy one,” Toyota-United team director Scott Moninger said, adding that he didn’t foresee other domestic teams being able to absorb Toyota’s roster into its own.
“Unfortunately because of the market, I don’t see any one team able to absorb the core of this team. With Health Net being in a similar situation, it’s definitely a buyer’s market. I’ve put a few feelers out there, but there’s not a huge market for directors. But I’m not stressed. I’ve been in this game for 27 years now, and I’ve never had more than a two-year contract. There’s no such thing as job security in this line of work.”
Toyota’s Chris Wherry, who is in his third season with the team, said that the situation was “not a total lost hope.”
“There are still some things in the works,” Wherry added. “With the way this team is put together, with foreigners and older guys, per UCI rules we can’t keep this team together unless we are pro continental, but those have to be put together by October 30. It puts everyone in a tough position. We could still have team, and [team owner] Sean Tucker could hire some of the guys, but he’s definitely not going to be able to keep everyone together, so it’s kind of the end of an era for this team.”
Like Moninger, Wherry said it was too early to worry about what lay ahead.
“I’m not stressed out,” he said. “The market is what it is, you just have to go with it. There’s probably not going to be as many lucrative contracts next year, and that’s just how it is. But who knows? Maybe Sean Tucker calls tomorrow and tells us something fell out of the sky. For now, we’re just going to focus on the rest of the year and doing what he do and try to finish out the season strong. The chips will fall where they’re going to fall.”