The Euskaltel-Euskadi team has confirmed reports that have appeared in the Spanish press this morning saying that Ferrari’s Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso has reached an agreement to take over the team. In a press release, the Basque squad said that negotiations have been ongoing for some time and are set to be concluded today (Monday).
According to El Periodico, Alonso and his sponsors bought the WorldTour license for 6 million Euro and plan to build a team around Samuel Sanchez. The Beijing Olympic Champion is one of the 14 riders on the 28-rider roster who have a contract for the next season. In the case of Sanchez he also has a contract with the team for 2015.
The new Euskaltel team will be based in the Asturias region, where Alonso himself is from. It will focus on regional riders too, next to the big names from Euskaltel like Samuel Sanchez, Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve and the Izaguirre brothers.
Euskaltel announced that it wouldn’t be able to contribute to the team in 2014, even though the Basque telecommunications company planned on a multiple year sponsorship. The Basque team relies on funds from Euskaltel as well as the regional government and other institutions. Due to the economic crisis in Spain the budgets for sport sponsorships have faded.
Taking over the Euskaltel WorldTour license supposedly costs around six million Euros, a figure Alonso’s sponsors will pay. Alonso has been an avid cycling supporter and bike rider himself for years. He is also close friends with Alberto Contador.
Alonso press release
In his own press release, Alonso has confirmed that he is in negotiations with the team for the purchase of their WorldTour licence and that the riders who have contracts with the squad’s owners, Basque Pro Cycling Team, for 2014 and 2015 will be respected.
A huge fan of the sport who appeared alongside Eddy Merckx at the Tour star in Monaco in 2009, Alonso’s involvement with cycling is far from new. In 2009, he wanted to set up a team with Alberto Contador, his close friend, but the squad failed to materialise after the Spanish Tour star had to stay with Astana for a further season.
“Last year I was very close to creating a team with Contador," Alonso said in a 2010 interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
In another interview with The Guardian in 2010, Alonso did not rule out the creation of a new cycling team, saying “It's a project for me – a kind of dream I have because I love cycling. Creating a top team and being in a position to win the Tour de France will give me a nice feeling.” Now, though, he looks set to buy one already in existence.
Alonso is a training partner of 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez during the winter in Asturias, and their home region is an area with strong cycling roots. Apart from producing cycling legends like 1970s climber Jose Manuel Fuente, the region has had several top teams, including Clas-Cajastur in the early 1990s, as well as the Vuelta a Asturias race, although that has recently fallen on hard times, it remains an important race on Spain’s cycling calendar. Asturias also has the Lagos de Covadonga climb and this Vuelta will finish the Naranco climb, one of the most emblematic of the country and host to the Subida a Naranco, a one-day race, for many years, and the climactic showdown will also come in Asturias, on the Angliru.