Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team Makes Donation to Fallen Competitor Who Was Paralyzed at Tour of Gila
Team Will Auction off Signed Team Jersey on eBay to Raise Additional Funds
Bend, OR -- The Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team announced today that its riders and staff donated $5,000 cash to Fausto Munoz Esparza, the rider who was paralyzed in a horrific high-speed crash in the Sunday, May 4, final stage of the Tour of Gila in Silver City, New Mexico. The cash consists of the riders' prize money they earned over last week's 5-day Tour of Gila and staff donations.
In addition, Toyota-United will auction off a team jersey signed by all 14 riders on eBay beginning Monday, May 12 in order to provide the general public with an opportunity to show their support for Fausto and his family.
Esparza 33, a former Mexican Nation Champion and father of three children, is in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit of El Paso's Thomason Hospital in Texas with a broken back which has left him paralyzed from the waist down. "He is very depressed and not sure what to make of this terrible situation. His wife, three children and parents have all come to El Paso to be by his side for the next three weeks until he gets out of the hospital" said Jose Manuel "Chepe" Garcia a Toyota-United rider and personal friend of Esparza.
"When I first heard how bad his accident was from Scott Moninger, (Asst. Team Director for Toyota-United) I immediately sprung into action and called Chepe who is a friend of Fausto's to see what was up. I could hear in his voice how upset he was and how Fausto is very depressed and makes his living racing a bike, which is no longer the case. Then Chepe told me how Fausto has three children and a wife to support. Being the Team Owner watching my riders risk everything each week and being married with a baby girl on the way in September, the whole situation really hit home for me. I then spoke with our riders and staff and we all agreed to do something for Fausto no matter how small it may be; but we want to start the ball rolling in hopes that other teams and fans will follow suit to help Fausto in his time of need" said Team Owner Sean Tucker.
Supporters may visit the Toyota-United website beginning Monday May 12th to link to an auction of a team jersey signed by all 14 members of the team to raise additional funds. www.toyota-united.com
In addition, people may make a private donation to:
Like he did for Dominique Rolling after his stage win at the Amgen Tour of California, Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team owner Sean Tucker put Ivan Dominguez on a Times Square big screen after his Tour of Georgia Stage 1 win.
The victory ensured that Toyota-United remains the only team in the world to have won at least one stage in every major American tour over the past three seasons.
You can listen to Sean Tucker talk about the team, why Rollin is know as "The Horse" and the future of American cycling at Bicycling.net.
The Tour de Georgia is underway! Yesterday, super-sprinter Ivan Dominguez of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team won the 70.4-mile stage 1 from Tybee Island to Savannah.
Photo courtesy of Action Images
From the Toyota-United press release:
Ivan Stevic from Toyota-United was in an early breakaway of six riders that never gained more than a minute advantage over the field for most of the race. "With eight kilometers to go, the Pro Tour teams formed an alliance and drove hard to catch the leaders. Our guys were waiting in the wings to spring Dominguez to the finish if Stevic's group was caught," said Len Pettyjohn, Team Director for Toyota-United.
With 1,000 meters to go, Henk Vogels the team captain of Toyota-United led the charge with Dominique Rollin, Ivan Dominguez and Hilton Clarke on his wheel to set up the sprint for Dominguez. "Henk put us in a perfect position and took me to 500 meters where I let loose with everything I had to deliver Ivan as close to the finish as possible before he blew past me with 200 meters to go and easily won," said teammate Dominique Rollin.
"With 50 meters to go, I looked under my arm and saw I had the same gap as when I passed everyone earlier and realized then I was the fastest and no one was going to pass me." said Dominguez after the race.
Tuesday, September 11, is the beginning of the inaugural Tour of Missouri. It's also the final chance for American cycling fans to see the Discovery Channel team compete. The team, which announced earlier this year that they will be disbanding following the 2007 season, will include Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, U.S.A. Cycling National Championship winner Levi Leipheimer and runner-up George Hincapie, and Yaroslav Papovych, who finished eighth at this year's Tour de France.
The Tour of Missouri begins in Kansas City and will cover 600 miles before finishing in St. Louis on Sunday, September 16th. More info at www.tourofmissouri.com. Versus looks to be airing taped coverage on Saturday, September 22 and Wednesday, the 26th.
Despite cycling's recent struggles and scandals, it's still sad that a great team like Discovery can buckle under the pressure of securing sponsorship. While they are one of the more expensive teams competing, they're also one of the more visible. From Lance Armstrong to Contador, Discovery has claimed several Tour de France podium spots since taking over sponsorship of the team from the U.S. Postal Service. Currently, they're the only American team competing on the international tour.
It'll be a tough void to fill. The team earned its following through victories--largely due to Armstrong. Team Slipstream, which prides itself on a rigorous drug-testing policy, has since signed several top tier riders but may not compete in the Tour de France until 2009. The Toyota-United Cycling Team has a very visible presence in American cycling, but doesn't compete internationally.
I'm jealous of the lucky fans who will line the roads of Missouri in the next several days. This is, however, an inaugural race. Along with the young Tour of California, perhaps we're seeing a resurgence of stage racing in America. Maybe without the cycling landscape here dominated by how well Discovery will do, new faces and teams will emerge, bringing with them younger, more eager fans.
Dan Sheret, who is attempting to cycle around the world, dipped the front wheel of his bicycle into the Pacific Ocean on August 16 after pedaling 4,120 miles across the country.
Sheret is an amputee who is riding to raise awareness for Clear Path International’s work with landmine and bomb survivors. Sponsored by the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team, he began his trip in Washington, D.C. escorted by Toyota-United riders Henk Vogels and Ivan Stevic. During the journey, Sheret stopped several times for media appearances, including an interview with CNN's Larry King.
Sheret leaves September 3 for the United Kingdom to begin the second part of his 16,000-mile Ability Trek 2007.
“I am going to trade the bike for my kayak and spend a couple of days on a beach eating crab and oysters,” Sheret said from his North Carolina home last week. More info on the ride can be found at www.abilitytrek.org .
For anybody looking for something a little more uplifting in the cycling world than the news coming out of France, tune in to "Larry King Live" on CNN Friday, July 27 (9pm ET, 6pm PT).
A segment called "Against All Odds" will feature Daniel Sheret, an endurance cyclist and below-the knee amputee attempting an around-the-world trip to raise money and awareness for Clear Path International and their work with landmine and bomb survivors. Sheret, who is sponsored by the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team, left Washington, D.C. on June 1. He is currently finishing up his trip across America in California.