Alonso had no interest in a Riis collaboration even if it would have allowed him to work with Contador from 2014
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Alonso had no interest in a Riis collaboration even if it would have allowed him to work with Contador from 2014

by Shane Stokes at 10:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Garcia: “Although we won’t have a team next year, there is still a lot to do”

Fernando AlonsoAlthough a collaboration would have enabled him to achieve his aims of having a WorldTour team in the peloton in 2014 and also to begin working with his friend Alberto Contador, Fernando Alonso had no interest in joining forces with Bjarne Riis as part of the Saxo Bank team.

Riis was in a tough position after current second sponsor Tinkoff Bank indicated that it would leave at the end of the year, and while Saxo Bank stated yesterday that it would step up its commitment to fill the budget gap, he is continuing to look for additional backers.

Alonso had been poised to buy the current Euskaltel Euskadi licence but the negotiations fell through. He has indicated that as a result, he will have to wait until 2015 before starting a team.

Kiko Garcia has been named as the future team manager of that project and told VeloNation this week that Alonso never considered an amalgamation with Riis, even though that would have enabled him to start working with Contador sooner.

“We have nothing to do with Bjarne Riis’ project. We are not in touch, we are not thinking about this option because Fernando wants to build his own project,” he said. “He is not interested in being the second sponsor or whatever.”

Alonso is one of the top Formula One drivers in the world, but is also a huge cycling fan and a friend of riders such as Contador, Samuel Sanchez and others

He is currently second overall in the standings, 77 points behind Red Bull-Renault’s Sebastian Vettel. Five races remain and with 25 points on offer for the win in those, the Ferrari driver is determined to push for what would be his third championship title.

Garcia said that this battle was occupying Alonso’s thoughts at this point in time, but that once the season was concluded he would turn his attention to the cycling project.

“For the moment, Fernando is still fighting for the F1 championship. They are in Japan for the next weekend race. They still have a lot of work to do until November,” he said. “So for the moment, we are in a kind of standby position, just waiting for the end of this championship. Then we will fix a way forward for the project to begin in 2015.”

“Although we won’t have a team next year, there is still a lot to do. We need to see exactly the next steps, when they need to start and who is on board from the beginning. There are a lot of things to do in the next coming weeks.”

Setting up a new team involves the acquisition of several factors, not least sponsors and riders. As regards the first of those, Garcia sounds optimistic that something will be in place.

“There are a few options for the moment. They [Alonso and others] are in touch with a few very good sponsors, some huge companies, but they haven’t decided anything yet. They want to see every single option.

“We have a little bit more time now [as the Euskaltel option for 2014 won’t happen – ed.], so it is maybe better to explore all the options.”

As regards riders, it was previously understood that Samuel Sanchez and many others from the Euskaltel Euskadi team would have been part of the new setup had it gone ahead for next year.

Now that that won’t happen, it has introduced a lot of uncertainty about who will form part of the setup. “We have a lot of names in mind but in the last few weeks, it was a big surprise for us finally not to find a way with Euskaltel. It completely changed our situation,” Garcia said.

“Now we must see who is at the end of contract at the end of 2014 and to see the options for the future.”

One of those who is very unlikely to be involved then is Contador. He is a rider who is very much on Alonso’s radar, with the racing driver having said in the past that he wanted to work together with him on a team.

However the former Tour winner has two years left on his current contract with Riis’s squad, and said yesterday that he would see that out.

“It is true longer term that it [a move to the Alonso project] could be a nice possibility but, as of today, for the next two years, my relationship is with Saxo,” Contador said at the press conference held in Madrid.

Garcia also made clear that he didn’t see anything happening before that contract expiration, even if riders have been bought out of contracts in the past.

“Alberto is always an interesting rider for everyone. There is no doubt about that, but of course if he has a contract with any team, he must complete the contract,” he said. “We won’t buy him out.”

Another rider who has been linked to the team is Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner. He said recently that he would have gone to the Alonso project had it gone ahead in 2014, and that he was left in a tricky position because that option didn’t happen.

Garcia confirms that there was indeed communication between the Alonso project and the rider, although he suggests that things were less advanced than Horner has suggested.

“It is true that we had a couple of contacts with him at the beginning of the Vuelta to know about his situation,” he said. “But suddenly the Euskaltel deal fell through. We didn’t send him any proposal or whatever. We just had a couple of contacts with him, but nothing else.”

Alonso will keep his focus on his driving for the next few weeks, then turn his attention to planning for the team. He has made clear that he wants it to be a top flight squad and to ride the top races in the sport. The easiest way to get access to those is with a WorldTour licence, but Garcia suggests that it is not certain that the team would necessarily start at that level.

“It looks like there is a new WorldTour system coming in 2015. So probably the best way now is to go to the UCI, to meet the new president and to talk to him about the project and our philosophy.

“Then we will see if we can be a WorldTour team in 2015, or just Pro Continental for the first year and then go up to WorldTour for 2016.”


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