When a guy who has a passion for the sport, boatloads of money and a real commitment to an ambitious but responsible project is left frustrated and backs away for the second time in four years, you know there’s something wrong, writes Al Hinds.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

I'm talking of course about Fernando Alonso. The Formula 1 star threw his arms up in defeat on Monday as negotiations to save Euskaltel-Euskadi broke down. Though both sides have not revealed details, various Spanish newspapers reported an impasse over existing contracts which carry through to next season.

And that may be for the best. An 11th hour bid to save a team, restructure it, rebuild its roster, plan a calendar, and figure out logistics and finances was never ideal. Alonso would do better to take the lead of an Orica-GreenEDGE or Team Sky, which respectively were in the works for more than 18 months before they even fronted a race.

"We've tried it until the end but it's just been impossible to have a cycling team in 2014," Alonso wrote on his blog. "My passion for the sport, my will to cooperate and do my bit remains intact, so this is only the beginning of the future. From tomorrow morning we are going to work on building, if needs be from scratch, a team we can be proud of. The best cycling team we can form, respecting this sport and with humility."

Alonso's intention is now to forge ahead with a plan to launch a new project for 2015. Bad news for Euskaltel, but good for the sport. That's good news at least. Alonso is, in the mould of Gerry Ryan, Andy Rihs and Doug Ellis, the kind of guy that cycling needs. A guy with a passion and the will and means to finance a team personally.

Euskaltel, meanwhile, and its nearly 30 riders, and more staff, will now return to job hunting.The team joins Sojasun and Vacansoleil-DCM on the chopping block this year. Tinkoff's share in Saxo-Tinkoff is also up in the air. Rabobank and Liquigas walked away in 2012. The list goes on. Brands are developed, then washed away, sometimes in only a matter of years.

Whether more could've been done to save the negotiations between Euskaltel and Alonso from failing is beside the point. It's symptomatic of a landscape in which instability is rife, even in the face of very real value being generated by the sport for those brands willing to dip their beaks into it.

Cycling has needed reform for more than two decades. Intransigence from the International Cycling Union is a major contributor to where the sport currently sits. This isn't a new problem and the solutions have been out there for some time. Consider the following proposal from Garmin-Sharp general manager Jonathan Vaughters tabled at a meeting with the UCI in 2009.

We must create financial stability for the teams by clarifying what we are selling to sponsors and what owners are investing in. By creating stability, we lower the risk of damage to the credibility of our sport and reduce the motivation for fraudulent activities.

'Novel' ideas like basic safeguards that teams could sell to sponsors which would prevent even low-level instability, salary caps, an amended points structure, and increased communication between teams and the governing body, were also met coldly by the UCI's top brass.

"It was very clear Pat (McQuaid), among others, was dismissive of what I had proposed," Vaughters wrote in a recent blog about his experience with the UCI. The full article on Vaughters's dealings with the UCI is available here.

Vaughters doesn't have all the solutions. But where the salvation of the sport is reliant on the whims of wealthy benefactors, the sport will remain fundamentally broken. Changing that should be a key priority of the next UCI president.