By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The circumstances surrounding the sacking of Toyota-United directeur sportif Frankie Andreu are sill unclear - both to Andreu and to anyone else outside of the team. The team management had only released a non-specific statement saying that, "due to other obligations and commitments, Frankie was not able to fulfil his contractual obligations." Andreu, speaking with Cyclingnews, said that the only reason given to him by the owner of the Toyota-United team, Sean Tucker, was his absence from the Tour de Nez race.
"I was fired because I did not go to the Tour de Nez," said Andreu. "I realised that the amount of time I was going to be away from my family and home that it would be very difficult for me to do Tour de Nez. I told him a couple of weeks beforehand. We had the schedule all laid out, but there are always changes with staff and riders. And I requested permission to not attend. He said that, 'You and Harm need to work it out, one of you need to go, and Harm has a vacation scheduled.' I called up the riders and the staff that were going to be at the race, talked with them and explained the situation that I didn't feel it was right for me to go. So I missed one NRC race out of the sixty-some races."
Andreu said he felt confident in sending the team with only a mechanic and soigneur to the Tour de Nez, only a 2.6.1 rated race. "I talked to the soigneur, the mechanic, Baldwin, Wherry and Cruz. And they won."
When asked about the other obligations referred to in the statement, Andreu responded, "The other contractual obligations, I do not know what he is talking about. They encouraged me to do the Tour de France for OLN. As far as other commitments and obligations, the team was my only job.
"I left for the Tour [de France] the day after the Tour de Nez finished. Sean was on vacation in Africa or something. I didn't hear anything throughout the Tour [de France] and I continued to do work with registering the team for different events. I came back from the Tour de France and Sean called me up and told me I was fired."
Andreu feels that he was either fired unjustly or that the reasons were more than just his absence at the Tour de Nez. "I feel I was fired unjustly. I know they issued a statement saying I was released. Obviously I don't want people to think I did something wrong. I think it was extreme, kind of odd and harsh. It doesn't quite make sense."
Cyclingnews attempted to contact Sean Tucker on multiple occasions to gain a better understanding of the reasons he had to terminate Andreu from the three-year contract. However, the only contact with Tucker was through the team's media representative, Martine Charles, who said that Tucker did not want to discuss what was deemed to be a human resources matter. Without specifically asking, Charles added that Andreu's leaked court testimony regarding Lance Armstrong was not a factor in the decision to terminate Andreu.
Andreu said he and Tucker spoke briefly about this situation immediately preceding the termination. "When Sean called me up and before we got down to business, we talked a little bit about [the Armstrong situation.] He didn't really know what was going on. He said he respected that I went to court and told the truth." However, Andreu is still unsure about the connections involved in his dismissal. "My answer to that is, 'I don't know' and you can ask Sean. I have no way of knowing. Even for a job in the future, I won't know if it is connected [to the Armstrong situation.]"
Andreu said that upon learning his fate he did have contact with the riders who were all surprised. "I've made a few phone calls and a bunch of the guys called me too. They didn't have any problems with me and I never had any problems with them. They were disappointed."
As of now, Andreu is most concerned with his immediate lack of employment. "I don't have anything coming in now, nothing. I loved working with the riders and it was a three year deal. I thought everything was good - I never managed I would be terminated six months into putting together the whole team."