Fernando Alonso’s preliminary agreement to buy out Euskaltel-Euskadi’s WorldTour licence is reported to have been torn up due to fundamental differences between the Formula 1 star and the team’s management on a range of issues. According to cycling insider blogger Inner Ring, the team has confirmed it is now proceeding with an "orderly shutdown" and will disappear at the end of the season.
Alsonso had been hailed as the team’s saviour when it was announced earlier this month that he planned to buy out its WorldTour contract from its management company Basque Pro Cycling Team, as well as taking on 14 of its riders, including Samuel Sanchez.
That preliminary agreement, announced on 2 September, reportedly envisaged Alonso paying €2 million a year for the licence for the next three seasons, although the figures have not been confirmed.
However, according to a report on the website of Spanish sports daily AS, Euskaltel-Euskadi insisted that he also assume responsibility for other contracts, including those of team staff including its management, while also honouring contracts with bike supplier Orbea and clothing firm Bioracer.
But Alonso was reported to have already appointed former pro Kiko Garcia, currently working for eyewear firm Oakley, as its manager and was looking to hire his own coaching staff.
Another potential stumbling block was said to be Alonso’s wish to move the team from the Basque region to Asturias – both he and Sanchez hail from its biggest city, Oviedo – and it is also said that the motor racing driver is concerned about Euskaltel-Euskadi’s finances and wants an audit carried out.
AS adds that Alonso approached the UCI to enquire whether he can acquire a WorldTour licence directly without taking on the one currently held by Basque Pro Cycling, but wa told that his team would at best have to start one tier below at Professional Continental level.
Current Euskaltel-Euskadi riders such as Sanchez and Igor Anton could have to find new employers for the 2014 season – unlikely to be a problem for riders of that calibre, although less heralded names on the roster could struggle to secure a contract at this stage.
Meanwhile, another Spanish WorldTour team, Movistar, was also said to have been “severely hampering” the deal – AS does not go into details of just how – apparently due to fears that potential sponsors would prefer to be associated with a team in which two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso is involved, as well as because it believed that the cost of Spanish riders could become inflated.
In August, Euskaltel-Euskadi revealed that it was set to fold at the end of the season following almost two decades in the sport after it failed to secure a replacement sponsor for the Basque institutions that previously supported it, forced to slash budgets as a result of Spain’s economic crisis.
A statement released at the start of this month announcing Alonso’s plans to take on the licence cautioned that there was 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."
While there is no official statement as yet on Euskaltel-Euskadi's website regarding the team being wound up, the latest news from Spain appears to confirm that Alonso, winner of 32 Grands Prix, has failed to take the chequered flag this time.
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.