Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso agrees a deal to buy the Spanish Euskaltel Euskadi cycling team
The Formula One driver plans to start work building a new team for 2014
Euskaltel did not have funding to continue racing next season
The team was famous for only employing riders born in the Basque region of Spain
Formula One’s highest-paid driver Fernando Alonso is splashing out on his own team but his new venture relies on pedal power instead of horsepower.
The double Formula One world champion, who earns over $30 million a year according to Forbes, has decided to save the cash-strapped Spanish Euskaltel Euskadi cycling team.
“We are pleased to announce that the Spanish sportsman has reached an initial agreement to buy the cycling team and so avoid its demise,” said a statement on Alonso’s personal website.
Euskaltel added in a statement: “During the next few weeks negotiations will be finalized [to] formally give Alonso the acquisition of Basque Pro Cycling, which owns the team.
“The agreement guarantees the continuity of the Euskaltel Euskadi team in the elite of world cycling from 2014.
“This guarantees a new future… Euskaltel wants to thank and emphasize respect, understanding and love that Fernando Alonso has shown for the team, its practitioners, its historical legacy and his hobby.”
Euskaltel Euskadi was famous for only employing riders born in the Basque region of northern Spain – as well its bright orange cycling lycra team kit.
The team changed its selection criteria in 2012 and now employs riders from other regions of Spain as well as Slovenia, Morocco, Germany and Russian.
But the team feared it would have to quit cycling’s World Tour at the end of the 2013 season after losing sponsorship from the Basque authorities because of the economic downturn in Spain.
The team confirmed to CNN that Eustkaltel, the leading telecommunications company in the Basque region, had paid more than 7m euros to keep the team going in 2013 but could not afford to continue to fund the team alone next season.”
Alonso’s decision to step in and spend some of his annual salary from Ferrari has effectively saved the team.
The racer has been motivated by patriotism as well as his other passion – cycling.
The 32 year old Spaniard regularly cycles as part of his training regime and he is not alone in his passion for cycling within F1’s fraternity.
Red Bull racer Mark Webber is also a keen amateur cyclist, although the Australian broke his leg after being knocked off his bike before the 2009 F1 season.
McLaren’s Jenson Button and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg both ride as part of their triathlon training while French four time world champion Alain Prost says cycling has become his “all consuming passion” since quitting F1.
Alonso, who chose to move back from Switzerland to Spain in part to help his homeland through its economic crisis, now plans to help turn around the fortunes of the Euskaltel team.
“As of today we will start to work against the clock,” the statement on the racer’s website said.
“With maximum effort and humility, and transferring the best of our professional experience, 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.”