Fernando Alonso has revealed the difficulties he encountered in setting up a cycling team, saying the process is “not easy or cheap”.
The Spanish Formula One driver nearly entered the sport in September 2013 when Euskaltel were pulling out of cycling but could not reach an agreement with the Basque team over its existing riders and sponsorship contracts.
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Instead, he planned to create a team from scratch and apply for a WorldTour licence ahead of the 2015 season, but this never materialised.
The now-38-year-old had visited the 2014 Giro d’Italia and reportedly secured a €100m sponsorship agreement for five years from the UAE yet the October deadline for registering a team with the UCI passed by quietly. In 2017, the backers from the UAE eventually teamed up with Lampre.
“It did not go ahead with Euskaltel and creating a team of our own,” Alonso told Kiko García in an interview at La Bicicleta Café. “It worked properly and we followed all the right steps but it was a dead-end tunnel. Creating a team of the UCI WorldTour is not easy or cheap.
“You have to have important economic support. We had meetings with the Government of the UAE who came close to entering the project. In the end, they worked with other teams in the current peloton.”
After the project failed to materialise, Alonso apologised to two-time world champion Paolo Bettini, who had quit his job as Italy’s head coach to direct the Formula One driver’s project.
Formula One has gone on to become involved in the professional peloton, with a number of WorldTour outfits joining forces with motor-racing teams. Ineos have partnered with Mercedes, McLaren replaced Merida as co-headline sponsors of the Bahraini squad headed up by Rod Ellingworth while Israel Start – Up Nation teamed up with Williams at the beginning of the 2020 season.