The Euskaltel-Euskadi team may be saved from folding at the end of the current season with Formula 1 driver and long-time cycling fan Fernando Alonso confirming today that he is in talks to acquire its WorldTour licence - although the man who has won 32 Grands Prix admits he is in a race "against the clock" to get everything finalised to enable the team to start the 2014 season.
The news was broken this lunchtime on the personal website of the 32-year-old Spaniard, twice world champion. Yesterday evening, the Ferrari driver had tweeted that he was due to reveal “important news,” prompting speculation that he may switch teams.
Instead, the statement on his website, published in full below, revealed that he has reached “an initial agreement” to buy out Euskaltel-Euskadi’s licence, for a reported price of €6 million.
The team, the oldest in the peloton, revealed last month that it was set to disappear following nearly two decades in the sport after it proved impossible to find a replacement sponsor found for the Basque institutions that had previously helped finance it but which are now unable to maintain their backing in the face of Spain’s continuing economic crisis.
While fans of the team might be ill-advised to crack open the Cava just yet, they might want to put it on ice; however, the statement concludes by cautioning that there is now a race "against the clock... in order to be capable of starting the first races of the 2014 season with a new team, full of desire and with a fighting spirit."
Alonso was previously linked with a move into professional cycling in 2010, when he confirmed in an interview with the Guardian that he was considering setting up a team with Alberto Contador. Spanish bank Santander were being rumoured to be sponsoring the outfit, which would have ridden Colnago bikes - the Italian brand has a longstanding partnership with Ferrari.
That never materialised, but today’s news confirms that Alonso’s intentions are serious. He says that should the deal be finalised, current contracts will be honoured, which will reunite him with another star Spanish cyclist with whom ha has trained in the past – Samuel Sanchez, who like the Formula 1 star, hails from the city of Oviedo in the Asturias region of northwest Spain.
Fernando Alonso statement
Fernando Alonso, one step away from acquiring Euskaltel Euskadi cycling team
Fernando Alonso, aware of the current situation of Spanish cycling and knowledgeable of the sad news of the definitive disappearance of the Euskaltel Euskadi team, decided to take an interest in the state of affairs of the Basque team with the intention of evaluating its acquisition in order to guarantee it’s continuity. After various days of intense negotiations between both parties, carried out with maximum discretion, we are pleased to announce that the Spanish sportsman has reached an initial agreement to buy said cycling team and so avoid its demise.
The double F1 World Champion’s great enthusiasm for cycling is well known; apart from including this sport in his daily training routine, he has always felt a special passion for this particular world on two wheels. From an early age, the Spanish racing driver adopted the values transmitted by this sport; values which are an integral part of his personal and professional life philosophy and thanks to which he has been able to grow and reap success in his own sport.
Transparency and zero tolerance; the pillars of the new undertaking.
Enthusiasm, seriousness, sacrifice, evolution and transparency are the words on which this team will build its foundations. Alonso is thrilled to be forming an active part in cycling and to be able to improve the image of this sport. Transparency and “zero tolerance” will therefore be the fundamental pillars on which the foundations will be laid for this exciting sports project.
Continuity. Transition. Internationality.
The new team will honour the contracts of those cyclists currently under contract to Euskaltel Euskadi for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The wish is to provide continuity and grow the team little by little, incorporating top names from the cycling pack with the intent of a moderate transition towards an international project whilst medium to long term, there is the firm intention of becoming a global model.
Thanks to Euskaltel and the Basque fans.
Fernando Alonso, conscious of the economic difficulties within the sports world in general, wishes to convey his enormous gratitude to Euskaltel for their involvement and support during all these years, having transformed the orange team into an international cycling icon. He would also like to thank Euskaltel for their good will and predisposition during the negotiations which have been conducted discreetly and cordially with the sole intention of saving the team. At the same time, the Spanish racing driver would like to thank the Basque fans, who at all times and in spite of the difficulties, have supported the team. Fans who Fernando would like to ask to continue supporting this new project with the usual passion they transmit to the racers.
As of today we will start to work against the clock, with maximum effort and humility, and transferring the best of our professional experience, in order to be capable of starting the first races of the 2014 season with a new team, full of desire and with a fighting spirit.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.