Sylwester Szmyd has signed a one-year contract with Polish Pro Continental team CCC Polsat Polkowice, in 2015 to be known as CCC Sprandi Polkowice. The 36-year-old is leaving the Spanish Movistar Team and moving to Poland, coming as an early Christmas present for Piotr Wadecki's ambitious outfit.
Szmyd reinforces Poland's only Pro Continental squad after 12 years of racing in Italy, followed by a disappointing two-year stint with Eusebio Unzue's team.
"After spending so many years in the foreign teams putting on the jersey of the Polish squad is something special," Szmyd said. "I have a lot of fire and motivation and I still enjoy cycling greatly. It’s not time for me to end this great adventure." The perspective at the end of the season was not that clear – Szmyd raced only one Grand Tour in two seasons and over past months he made it clear that he was not feeling comfortable on Spanish team, pointing to lack of racing in key events.
"There is nothing to talk about, really. Training before Giro, rough-and-tumble with the team, racing without any plan, results or goal," – he wrote in a blog entry mid-October. "I must admit, I'm tired of those two seasons, tired mentally, not physically. I've never raced like that in my entire career." While his performances in 2013 had been apparently influenced by mononucleosis, in 2014 Szmyd failed to make the selection for any of three-week races or score any valuable result apart from a third place in Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.
"I don't really have good memories of this team, I don't feel like making any further comments," he wrote with disappointment in November, talking about possible retirement and passing an UCI exam to be a directeur sportif.
Szmyd started his professional career back in 2001 with Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola and continued racing mainly on Italian soil with Lampre and then Liquigas. He has been praised as an excellent climber and experienced gregario throughout the years, having completed 22 Grand Tours. His palmares include a stage win at the Dauphine Libere (2009) as well third place in the Giro del Trentino (2012) and 14th place in the Vuelta a Espana (2006).
"Many times I’ve been asked for how long I want to race. Every time I would reply that my dream is to participate in a Grand Tour with a Polish team," Szmyd stressed.
This may be as close to that dream as he may get. Receiving a wild card for a three-week race is the first goal set by CCC in its bid to compete in world's top races. Following invitations to four WorldTour events and numerous important races in 2014, the team is now hoping to earn a wild card for the 2015 Giro d'Italia. If successful, orange kits will compete at the corsa rosa for the first time since 2003 – when their leader Dariusz Baranowski finished 12th overall.
With the reform of professional road cycling looming on the horizon, team owners are making long-term plans – looking for additional sponsors and restructuring the squad so that is set to apply for a WorldTour license between 2016 and 2018.
"If CCC gets a chance to participate in one of the Grand Tours, he [Szmyd] could be the leader of the team," said Piotr Wadecki, team directeur sportif.
Szmyd will be racing on a team consisting of youngsters and veterans. 43-year-old Davide Rebellin is joined by his old Gerolsteiner teammate Stefan Schumacher, Slovenian Grega Bole, Czech Republic's Jan Hirt, Italian Cristian della Stella and seven young Polish riders – Piotr Brozyna, Jakub Kaczmarek, Eryk Laton, Kamil Malecki, Michal Paluta, Leszek Plucinski and Patryk Stosz. The team's roster has not been officially closed yet but in 2015 Piotr Wadecki should command 25-26 riders, with Bole, Maciej Paterski, Szmyd, Schumacher and Rebellin pillaring the project.