Fernando Alonso saves Euskaltel-Euskadi cycling team from folding with takeover
Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has bought the Euskaltel-Euskadi cycling team.
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 02/09/13 6:31pm
The team had been due to cease operations at the end of the season after almost 20 years in top-tier cycling following the withdrawal of financial backing from public institutions in the Basque country, where it is based.
However, long-time cycling fan Alonso is set to rescue the squad by taking over ownership of its WorldTour licence from current management company Basque Cycling Pro Team.
A statement on the 32-year-old's website said: "We are pleased to announce that the Spanish sportsman has reached an initial agreement to buy [Euskaltel-Euskadi] and so avoid its demise.
'Enthusiasm for cycling'
"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."
Alonso first expressed an interest in venturing into cycling several years ago and triggered intense speculation in F1 circles yesterday by tweeting: "I have important news coming these days. Stay tuned here on Twitter and on the web."
Takeover negotiations have been ongoing over the past few weeks and the deal is expected to be finalised imminently.
It is understood the team will be relocated to the Asturias region of north-western Spain and rebuilt around 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez, with a key focus on employing local riders.
Alonso's statement also said he would aim to help cycling distance itself from its doping past by adopting a zero-tolerance policy to drugs.
It added: "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."
The takeover will be warmly welcomed by the cycling community, which had been preparing to wave goodbye to one of its longest-established and best-loved teams.
Euskaltel-Euskadi first came into existence in 1994 and quickly became a treasured part of the professional peloton, with its distinctive orange jersey and policy of only employing home-grown riders earning it fans around the world.
However, Basque Cycling Pro Team announced less than a fortnight ago that the team would fold at the end of the season due to a shortfall in funding.
Lead sponsor Euskaltel, the telecommunications company, had committed to continuing its backing of the team for the next four years, but austerity measures in the Basque country meant that public institutions were unable to provide the promised €3.5m contribution to the €9m annual running costs of the team.
The new team will honour all of the contracts of the riders who were signed to Euskaltel-Euskadi for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.