Just when it seemed that the idea of Formula One driver Fernando Alonso creating a new team had finally been parked for good, the Spanish motor sport star’s manager has re-ignited the whole question.
In statements reported by news agency Europa Press, Luis García Abad, Alonso’s manager, claimed the cycling project was “on stand-by".
He said: "This year  it is not going to happen. Next year? If the circumstances are right…that depends on other actors, not just us.”
What appeared to be Alonso’s first concrete step towards owning a cycling team now stretches back to 2013, when in a dramatic press release issued during that year’s Vuelta, he appeared to be on the point of saving Euskaltel-Euskadi from disappearance at the last minute. At the time Alonso was reported to have around six million euros available to spend on the team.
However, after that bid to save the Basque squad failed to materialize after negotiations fell part, throughout the first half of 2014 a bid to create a wholly new Alonso-backed team for 2015 began. The biggest name in the project, Paolo Bettini, quit his job as Italian national trainer to try to mastermind the squad.
Speaking earlier this week at the Tour Down Under, the former Olympic gold medallist claimed that “we worked for five months on the structure of the team, it was 70 per cent completed, I was in contact with 15 riders with the preliminary contract, with directeurs sportifs, it was ready to go. Then in May 2014, it all finished, I don’t know why.
"The Alonso project was going to be big, with a Formula 1 driver, it would have been big for cycling. The Fernando project was not just for a professional team, but for the women’s team, a young team, not only for cycling, but for other projects.”
Nonetheless, Alonso continued to state in public that this was a project that he still believed could happen one day. Speaking in November 2014, Alonso was reported by Spanish news agency EFE as saying: "My intention and my wish over this past year was to create a professional team but a series of circumstances have taken place. I think I can combine the two sports – motor-racing and cycling – very well, and it’s something I want to do in the future."
Early in 2015, Bettini said that Alonso had apologized to him personally for the project falling apart.
García Abad’s most recent statement means this is the fourth year there have been reports of Alonso’s interest in creating or owning a top-level cycling team. But arguably the key question - that of when concrete steps to create the team may be take - remains unanswered for now.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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