Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso has confirmed he has lost the fight to save the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, now set to be wound up at the end of the year, but has pledged to pursue his dream of setting up his own professional cycling team - although if the project is realised, it will not race until 2015.
The Ferrari driver revealed his plans following a day on which it had been confirmed that his negotiations to buy out the UCI WorldTour team's licence from management company Basque Pro Cycling had come to nothing due to a dispute over the extent of the contracts he would take over.
After reports appeared in the Spanish press yesterday, Euskaltel-Euskadi's management confirmed it would begin an "orderly shutdown" of the team, which has been part of the pro peloton for almost two decades.
In a statement released via his Twitter account yesterday evening, two-time world champion Alonso insited he would press ahead with plans to set up a team, saying:
We've tried it until the end but it's just been impossible to have a cycling team in 2014. My passion for this sport, my will to co-operate and do my bit remains intact, so this is only the beginning of the future. From tomorrow morning we are going to work on building, if needs be from scratch, a team we can be proud of. The best cycling team we can form, respecting the sport and with humility. As you may have observed I', quite tenacious, and above all, I love and value this sport a lot. It possesses and transmits, as I said many times, values that I shar, a set of values that I would like to help promote. Cycling and its fans deserve the best and now we have time on our side, time in which we'll be very attentive to any circumstances we can learn from and, above all, that can make us better for next year. It wasn't to be, but it will be! The adventure has just begun. Let's look forward to 2015!
The collapse of the deal to rescue Euskaltel-Euskadi - Alonso was reportedly prepared to pay €2 million a year for the next three years to buy out its WorldTour licence - means that the project will start from scratch.
Yesterday, the Spanish sports daily AS reported that ahead of the termination of talks with Euskaltel-Euskadi, the driver had already approached the UCI to see if he could secure a new WorldTour licence for his team next season, rather than taking over the existing one of the Basque outfit.
He was told, however, that such a team could not start at a level higher than second-tier Professional Continental. Assuming the same would apply in 12 months' time, that may make it difficult to attract top riders, since the team owuld not have guaranteed entry to WorldTour races and would have to rely on wild cards.
Moreover, the 12-month hiatus means that the core of Euskaltel-Euskadi riders around whom he aimed to build his team - Alonso had pledged to honour the contracts of 14 of them - may not now be available, with the likes of Samuel Sanchez and Igor Anton seeking teams for 2014 and beyond.
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.