Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso steps in to save cycling team Euskaltel Euskadi

The Basque team was on the verge of extinction

Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has reached an agreement to save the stricken Basque cycling team Euskaltel Euskadi from extinction.

The Ferrari driver, world champion in 2005 and 2006, has a keen interest in cycling and had held talks over a buy-out of the team having been saddened by news of their imminent demise.

And a statement on Alonso's website read: "After various days of intense negotiations between both parties, carried out with maximum discretion, we are pleased to announce that the Spanish sportsman has reached an initial agreement to buy said cycling team and so avoid its demise."

The team were due to cease competing at the end of the season due to a lack of funding, bringing to an end nearly two decades of professional riding under the Euskaltel Euskadi banner.

The team were previously co-funded by the Basque government, but financial pressures in Spain affected their input and a second sponsor could not be found.

Alonso's input appears to have saved their future, though, and primary sponsor Euskaltel issued a statement which read: "Euskaltel wants to thank the double Formula One champion for reaching an agreement and would like to emphasise the respect, understanding and love that Fernando Alonso has shown for the Euskaltel Euskadi team, its professionals, its historical legacy and his hobby."

Euskaltel's recent successes have mainly come from Samuel Sanchez, who won 2012's Tour of the Basque Country and has three times finished in the top 10 at the Tour de France, including a third-placed finish in 2010. He was also second in the 2009 Vuelta a Espana.

Alonso went on to state his commitment to clean and "transparent" racing and his plans to eventually recruit top international riders to support Sanchez in the traditionally Basque-dominated team

His statement read: "Enthusiasm, seriousness, sacrifice, evolution and transparency are the words on which this team will build its foundations.

"Alonso is thrilled to be forming an active part in cycling and to be able to improve the image of this sport. Transparency and 'zero tolerance' will therefore be the fundamental pillars on which the foundations will be laid for this exciting sports project.

"The new team will honour the contracts of those cyclists currently under contract to Euskaltel Euskadi for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

"The wish is to provide continuity and grow the team little by little, incorporating top names from the cycling pack with the intent of a moderate transition towards an international project whilst medium to long term, there is the firm intention of becoming a global model."

PA

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