The high profile, on-again, off-again project of Formula One driver Fernando Alonso looks dead in the water for 2015.
Appointed team manager Paolo Bettini has confirmed that there will not be a team for next season despite continued assurances from Alonso there would be. Speaking to ProCycling Norway, Bettini reconfirmed fears that the team will not happen next year.
“The Alonso project has been completely put on hold for reasons I cannot elaborate on,” Bettini told the Norwegian magazine. “I still do not know about their intentions for the future.”
Bettini did not respond to emails from VeloNews, but the comments come after weeks of silence from the Alonso camp about the future viability of the team. There has not been any follow-up comment from Alonso or his representatives.
Earlier this summer, Alonso and his representatives assured the peloton that a team was going to be hitting the pavement in 2015. In an interview with Biciciclismo.com in late August, Alonso representative Luis Garcia Abad insisted the team was following UCI rules, and that plans remained intact to start a team.
Cervélo was linked as a bike sponsor, indicating there was legitimate movement despite the team’s low profile, especially in the pursuit of riders. Rider agents confirmed to VeloNews earlier this year that they were hearing inconsistent messages from Alonso, or nothing at all, suggesting things were not going well.
Alonso’s representatives, however, paid a UCI deposit of 16,000 Swiss francs [$165,765] on September 1 to apply for a racing license for 2015, but did not follow up by October 1 with required bank guarantees, sponsorship registrations, or contracts to meet the requirement of a minimum roster of 10 riders.
As recently as early October, Alonso publicly stated a team back by Novo Group Holdings, an investment group based in Dubai, would be announced within days.
Since then, things have gone quiet again on the project dubbed FACT, Fernando Alonso Cycling Team.
Instead, the latest comments from Bettini, who left his job as Italian national coach last year, indicate the project is once again uncertain at best.
Alonso’s efforts to start a team date back to September, 2013, in a frantic, yet ultimately unsuccessful effort to take over the troubled Euskaltel-Euskadi team. Negotiations failed, Euskaltel closed at season’s end, yet Alonso insisted he wanted to create a new team from scratch.
That inconsistency has cost Alonso credibility inside the peloton. Whether he follows up with real cash to create a team in the future remains to be seen. As of now, the once-powerful Spanish presence in the peloton has been reduced to just one WorldTour-level team, with Movistar, and one professional continental team — Caja Rural.