“We will be racing in 2015,” is the message coming from the Team Alonso camp. Since announcing in January that Paolo Bettini would manage team, things have been awfully quiet - until this week. Aside from the numerous riders who have been linked to the team that will be known as F.A.C.T. any details have been few and far between.
Spanish cycling website Biciciclismo suggest that the biggest stumbling block for the team has been the August 1st deadline for signing contracts. Under current UCI regulations, teams cannot sign an in-contract rider before August first. Traditionally, a lot of contract negations are done in and around the Tour de France, but pen cannot be put to paper until that date.
They go onto say that failure to get the team racing in 2015 would be a huge dent to Alonso’s public image, after the collapse of the Euskaltel-Euskadi deal in 2013. Something that the Formula One driver’s manager Luis Garcia Abad is keen to avoid.
For the Alonso project to make it into the WorldTour, they need to sign riders with sufficient points. Under new regulations, only the top five points earners in the team will be counted towards that target. The uncertainty has already taken it’s toll with Peter Sagan ending contract negotiations with the team, limiting his choices to Tinkoff-Saxo or Cannondale.
At the end of the year, only two places will be available in the sport’s top level, with the first 16 teams gaining automatic entry into the WorldTour for 2015. Early December has often been the time that the UCI confirm the WorldTour teams.
In 2012, Orica-GreenEdge built their squads from scratch to gain entry into the WorldTour in their first year. However, Alonso’s manager recently complained that the convoluted process each team must go through to gain entry has been hindering their signing of riders. Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Garcia Abad had made the trio to the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland to get special dispensation.
The UCI has also moved to clarify their position on the Alonso team, insisting that the Formula One driver will not receive any special treatment and will have to follow the complicated licence application process like every other team that wants to be part of the WorldTour in 2015.
The UCI insisted to Cyclingnews that Alonso's agent Luis Garcia Abad did not travel to Aigle for a vital meeting on Monday and said that the only time that UCI president Brian Cookson had met Alonso was during the WorldTour trophy Awards in Madrid in December.
"We feel it is important to point out that Alonso's representatives have never asked for any special treatment of any kind," a UCI spokesperson told Cyclingnews.
"It is the UCI's responsibility to create the most favourable environment for any team willing to enter the UCI WorldTour circuit."
"We very much welcome Fernando Alonso's interest and look forward to discussing further with him and his advisors. We'd be very, very happy if the team is created for 2015. However, any application for a place in the WorldTour will have to comply with the same regulations as those followed by every other team."
Leading cycling agent Paul De Geyter told Cyclingnews last week that his experience tells him that the team would need their plans finalised by the end of May if they hope to be racing in 2015.