Jim Ochowicz has confirmed that his Continuum Sports management company are searching for a new title sponsor after CCC decided to end their association with the men’s WorldTour team at the end of 2020.
The Polish company signed an initial three-year deal at the start of 2019 but due to footwear sales plummeting resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, CCC has scaled back costs and have decided to end their contract with Ochowicz a year earlier than planned. The announcement does not cover the women's CCC-Liv team, which is a separate entity and is under a different contract agreements with CCC.
Riders and staff at the men's team had already faced pay cuts in recent months, while non-essential staff were let go.
In a statement issued on Monday morning, Ochowicz admitted that cycling faced unprecedented times but he was optimistic that a replacement sponsor could be found.
Ochowicz has a track record in finding sponsors, having been influential in setting up the 7-Eleven team in the 1980s before turning to Motorola. He ran the BMC Racing team for almost a decade before cutting a deal with CCC at the last minute in the summer of 2018 after BMC decided to opt-out of the sport.
“Looking ahead to the 2021 season, CCC will no longer be the title sponsor so we are now actively looking for a new title sponsor,” Ochowicz said in a statement.
“We are in an unprecedented time but we are confident there are companies that want to invest in cycling, especially given the global rise in the popularity of bike riding in recent months. Under the Continuum Sports ownership and license, we have grown from a US Continental Team in 2007 to one of the biggest WorldTour teams in the peloton in recent years and we have every intention of continuing under new title sponsorship.”
It’s understood that Giant is set to continue as a bike supplier and possible co-sponsor of the team if Ochowicz can find the main title sponsor.
However, the current economic landscape in which to attract sponsors is unique to anything Ochowicz will have encountered before. Almost every commercial sector has been hit by an economic downturn in recent months, and several other WorldTour teams are under threat due to financial strains placed upon their owners.
In 2018, when BMC announced that they would be pulling out, Ochowicz had considerably more time to find a replacement but the American team boss still carries the hope that a return to racing in August will provide his squad with the opportunity to showcase their qualities.
WorldTour racing is set to formally returning at the start of August with the three Grand Tours, Monuments, and several other high-profile races crammed into a 71-day window.
“Our first priority is returning to the start line and achieving the season goals we set out in December,” Ochowicz said.
"The racing calendar may be more condensed now but we are more motivated than ever to achieve the key wins we outlined for 2020; a Monument win, a WorldTour one day win, a WorldTour stage race win, and a stage victory at each of the three Grand Tours. Every race day is an opportunity for our riders and it is clear that strong performances in the early races are going to be instrumental in securing the team’s long term future.”
It’s not clear how CCC Team will split their roster when racing does resume however the likely scenario would see Greg Van Avermaet lead the Classics charge, with the former Paris-Roubaix winner also lining up at the Tour de France before competing in the remainder of the one-day races towards the backend of the newly formatted campaign.
Ilnur Zakarin will take up the GC challenge in the Grand Tours, while the rest of the team will target stage wins and one-day successes. The logistical challenges in the coming months will be huge but Ochowicz is determined to keep his operation going, not just for the remainder of 2020 but well into the future.
“We are now two months out from our first race back, the Vuelta a Burgos, so we are busy putting our race calendar together and planning our rider roster selections for what will be a busy racing block from the end of July to November," Ochowicz said.
"Our service course in Belgium will be reopening in mid-June and with most of the European travel restrictions set to ease in the next month, some of our riders will begin altitude training in various parts of Europe. At this stage, we will be covering almost 140 race days which means we will be running two to three race programs throughout the four-month period. We will be in a position to share our race calendar and key rider goals in the coming weeks as we finalize our plans."
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