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Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso’s rescue of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team has prompted speculation from Gazzetta dello Sport that his friend Alberto Contador may join the squad next season.
Although Contador has a contract with Saxo-Tinkoff for the next two seasons, Gazzetta claims that manager Bjarne Riis is struggling to find the funds to pay his estimated salary of €4.5 million per year. Riis is reportedly in the process of negotiating a deal that would see Oleg Tinkov remain in place as a backer of the team next year in spite of the announcement of the dissolution of their partnership last month.
Following Tinkov’s withering – and repeated – criticism of Contador via Twitter in the wake of his fourth-place finish at the Tour de France, it was announced that the Russian magnate’s Tinkoff Credit Systems would no longer sponsor Riis’ team in 2014 due to disagreements “on how the team should be run.”
According to Gazzetta, Contador’s relationship with Riis has also become strained since the Tour – in public, there appeared to be some initial disagreement regarding Contador’s decision not to defend his Vuelta a España title – and the Italian newspaper speculates that “the team manager could have an interest in letting Contador go and proceeding with Tinkov.” However this would leave Riis without a high-profile team leader for the Grand Tours.
Speculation linking Contador with a move to an Alonso-backed team is not new, of course, and dates back to when the driver first expressed an interest in owning a cycling team at the start of the 2009 Tour de France, a period in which Contador was unsuccessfully looking to leave the Astana squad.
While Contador’s arrival at Alonso’s team remains purely in the realm of speculation for now, Ernesto Colnago has confirmed that he will meet with Alonso at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, perhaps to discuss the team using Colnago bikes in 2014. Euskaltel-Euskadi currently uses Orbea bikes.
“I don’t know anything but I have a meeting with him on Saturday at Monza,” Colnago told Gazzetta. “If he wants, then I’m ready to supply bikes to the team. It would be a good thing for the whole industry in Italy.”
L’Équipe reports that current Euskaltel manager Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano will remain at the helm next year, while there is speculation that Alonso’s long-term personal sponsor, Banco Santander, will be the principal name on the team’s jerseys.