Alonso, a two-time Formula One world champion, explained that it was too complicated to bring all the pieces together to try to create a cycling team.
“You don’t have a sponsor because there are no cyclists, and there are no cyclists because you cannot sign them before the Tour,” Alonso said in an interview. “In the end, it was a dead-end street with no exit.”
Alonso created a buzz in late 2013 when it appeared the Spanish racecar driver was going to take over the racing license of Euskaltel-Euskadi, which was folding at the end of that year.
Alonso, a longtime cycling aficionado, scrambled to pull together sponsors in a rush to meet deadlines. He hired Italian star Paolo Bettini to manage the team, and had up to 15 riders committed to race on the new team, including Chris Horner, only to see the effort collapse. Alonso tried again to build a team from scratch going into 2014 to race for the 2015 season, with links to the United Arab Emirates, but that effort eventually fell through as well.
Alonso said it was catch-22 situation, where he could not secure sponsorship guarantees without assurances of which riders he would be able to sign. But riders were hesitant to sign on with a new team with an uncertain future.
“To form a team, you need riders, and sometimes the deadlines do not correspond to the time you have,” he told La Bicicleta Café, run by ex-pro Kiko García, who also worked on the Alonso cycling project.
“The sponsor wants to know what riders you have, and you have to finish the paperwork to create the team and have a license before June or July. But you can’t talk to the riders until after the Tour, so you’re doing the paperwork and paying the license without having a rider signed. And that is difficult to explain to a sponsor.”
Alonso, who is considering a Formula One comeback after retiring in 2018, said the deal with backers from UAE nearly worked out, but in the end fizzled.
“To create a WorldTour team is neither cheap nor easy,” he said. “The deal with Euskaltel fell through, so we tried to create something new on our own. We worked in a good way, and took the right steps, but in the end, it was a dead-end. The deadlines came, and it turned out to be a lot more complicated than we would have hoped.”
Alonso said he takes some consolation from the effort, pointing out that UAE is now a major sponsor of a WorldTour team, with UAE-Emirates.