MADRID (VN) — Brian Cookson, president of cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, made the most of his two-day trip to Madrid this week. Not only did he officially present trophies for the UCI WorldTour and meet with the president of Spain’s cycling federation and other Spanish sports ministers, he also discreetly took the opportunity to meet with Formula One driver Fernando Alonso.
Alonso, who is developing a major team for a planned debut in 2015, arrived at Spain’s Consejo Superior de Deportes with his manager, Luis Garcia Abad, just as the WorldTour ceremony was winding down Thursday afternoon. Alonso was whisked inside for a sit-down with Cookson and officials from Spanish cycling and sport officials.
“We had a private meeting with [Alonso] and his team. Our objective is to help people like Alonso, and exciting projects like his will form part of our sport,” Cookson told Spanish daily AS. “We want to help those who want to invest in cycling.”
Details were not revealed, but the 40-minute meeting was a first step for Alonso to make contacts within the UCI to avoid unexpected speed bumps further down the road.
Alonso said the project is moving forward despite a new rule that could be implemented before the 2015 season that would not allow new teams to pass directly into the WorldTour.
“It was a positive meeting,” Alonso told AS afterward. “Whether or not we’ll be WorldTour is secondary. With the great team we’re building, we’ll be guaranteed to be in the major races.”
Many see Alonso, a two-time world Formula One champion, as a salve for Spanish cycling. He has promised to bring major sponsors as well as the best of technology and marketing from Formula One to cycling.
Although Spain ended the 2013 season ranked as the No. 1 nation, with Joaquim Rodríguez winning the individual title and Movistar the team prize, there’s pessimism that Spanish cycling is losing its place among the international peloton.
Alonso’s arrival to cycling has created a huge buzz in Spain, where the sport is suffering from major cutbacks in government and private investment resulting in a long string of closures among teams and races.
After efforts to take over the Euskaltel-Euskadi team fell through late this fall, Alonso is aiming to build a new team in time for the 2015 season, with goals of entering the WorldTour as soon as possible.
Last week, however, former Euskaltel manager Igor González de Galdeano accused Alonso of being “ill-advised.”
With meetings with movers and shakers like Cookson and Spanish sports authorities, it appears that Alonso is learning the ropes rather quickly.