Samuel Sánchez, the 2008 Olympic champion facing retirement following the collapse of Euskaltel-Euskadi, is considering a move to join a start-up team in the United Arab Emirates for 2014.
According to the Spanish daily ABC, Sánchez has had meetings with the president of the UAE’s cycling federation, Osama Al Ahafar, to explore the possibilities of joining the continental team dubbed Sky Dive, which has ambitions of being a UCI ProTeam within three years.
“I’ve seen firsthand that [the Emirates] want to aim for the WorldTour,” Sánchez told ABC. “More so, it’s a nation with the means to do something very big in a short timeframe. It left me with a good impression.”
Sánchez is among a dozen Euskaltel riders who have been stranded without contracts following the team’s collapse at the end of this season.
Considered too expensive and perhaps too old by some, Sánchez has been unable to find a ride for next year, even though he said he would like to race “for at least two more seasons.”
Sánchez hinted he would live in Dubai, but a move to the third-level team would mean a drastically reduced racing calendar for the 35-year-old. It would, however, at least keep him active as a professional cyclist through next season, when the project backed by Formula One driver Fernando Alonso is expected to debut.
Sánchez was poised to join the Alonso project in 2014, but talks between Euskaltel and the driver’s representatives collapsed, resulting in the demise of the Basque team this month.
Spain’s economic crisis has left the cycling powerhouse with just one team in the WorldTour — Movistar — and only one team at the professional continental level in Caja Rural.
“Spanish cycling is paying too high a toll,” Sánchez said. “It’s not normal that Spain is a world power in cycling, and there is only one major team.”