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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.