Fernando Alonso may be looking to join forces with the Cannondale team in an attempt to join the WorldTour, according to a report in Biciciclismo.
The report states that the new team would be known as Team Alonso Cannondale. Current Cannondale rider Peter Sagan has been heavily linked with a move to Alonso's team, after his contract runs out with the American team, at the end of this year. It is believed that the potential loss of the Slovakian is the driving force behind the merger.
While the team has a number of strong riders, there is no doubt that Sagan is top of that list and the team may struggle without him. The potential union could help Cannondale retain their number one rider and provide some much needed cash.
Cannondale has already looked into taking on a second sponsor and had talks with Oleg Tinkov, towards the end of last year. The Russian businessman chose not to join forces with the bike manufacturer in favour of buying out Bjarne Riis at Saxo-Tinkoff. The result was that Cannondale bought a majority share in Brixia Sports, who owns the cycling team.
With Alonso’s cash and influence, the team may be able to build a stronger rider base along while also retaining Sagan. A number of leading Spanish riders have been linked with the outfit, including Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodríguez and Samuel Sánchez, and Portuguese world champion Rui Costa. However, no contracts can be signed until August 1st 2014.
The Spanish Formula One driver has made his intentions of starting a cycling team in 2015 well known. However, new UCI rules prevent a team from joining the WorldTour in their first year of operation. A team must show their worth on the Pro Continental circuit before the sport’s governing body will consider an application into the highest ranks.
Alonso previously attempted to join the WorldTour when he bought the licence of the folding Euskaltel-Euskadi team. The acquisition raised a lot of hopes, but it fell through soon after, when the team were unable to put the funding in place before the final deadline.
Since then the Spaniard has been keeping a high public presence in the world of cycling, as he looks to build his team. Alonso recently made an appearance at the Dubai Tour and he spent some time at the World Championships last season. Paolo Bettini was named as the team’s manager last season and, if the merger falls through, Alonso has already secured a wildcard for the Vuelta a España. He has also met with UCI president Brian Cookson and Tour de France organisers ASO.
Whatever happens Alonso's team will provide a good boost for Spanish cycling, which has seen a large drop in the number of riders at WorldTour level, largely due to the collapse of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team.