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As the CCC team finds itself searching for a new title sponsor for the second time in three years, team manager Jim Ochowicz provided an update on the situation on Wednesday.
“At the moment I would say we have about half a dozen discussions going on with potential sponsors,” Ochowicz said in a video press conference with reporters. “At the end of the day, you can’t take anything to the bank until you get a signature on a document that confirms commitments. We do not have that at the moment. We are talking to a lot of people.”
Less than two years after the squad signed an agreement with CCC to take over as the title sponsor for a departing BMC, the Polish footwear brand is backing out of the role due to serious financial woes amid the coronavirus pandemic. The team has cut pay and laid off some staff as it tries to continue with a reduced budget in 2020. Meanwhile, Ochowicz is busy trying to secure the team’s future in the form of a new sponsor.
According to a recent report in La Gazzetta, the team has had conversations with Rally Health, which already sponsors American ProTeam Rally Cycling. Asked for comment on the subject, Ochowicz said on Wednesday that he would not be getting into specifics of whom he was talking to amid the search process.
“If you’ll recall two years ago, we were in the same shoes we are today. We were looking for a new sponsor to replace BMC,” Ochowicz said. “During that time we had a lot of rumors and a lot of opinions about where people thought we were headed and in some cases it really caused us a lot of harm in the process because people made assumptions that we had a sponsor, which was untrue. They published that and it slowed down our momentum considerably because people assumed we had something and they backed out of discussions with us because of that.”
Ochowicz also addressed the topic of whether the team had a “deadline” for replacing CCC as a title sponsor.
“Deadlines have kind of disappeared in 2020 because of the virus, and just because of the nature of the readjustment of the racing calendar,” Ochowicz said. “The Tour is in September. Normally, right now, we’d be pretty close to in the final preparation for the Tour de France. Instead, it’s two months out from here. There are no deadlines.
“The deadlines keep moving along and get changed very day. We’re not going to put a deadline down. Of course there is a deadline, December 31, 2020, if you want a team in 2021. So if you want to call it a deadline that’s our deadline. But we don’t have a deadline just because the calendars change, the business changes, so many things are different today than they were a year ago.”
Ochowicz did say that he was both “optimistic” and “fairly confident” in the search at the moment, and noted that healthy status of the cycling industry as a whole right now was a boon for a WorldTour team looking for a new partner, particularly now that another notable outfit that had also been on the hunt (Mitchelton-Scott) recently announced that it had found a title sponsor.
That said, for now the future of the CCC team remains uncertain, and so too are the futures of its athletes. Ochowicz said that team brass is open to current riders talking to other teams amid the uncertainty, although it was not entirely clear where the team stood on riders actually deciding to sign elsewhere. The team’s best-known rider, Greg Van Avermaet, remains under contract with the team through 2021; Ochowicz left it somewhat open as to the way the team would respond should he have a firm offer from another squad.
“We would have to talk about that. I would say if it was an offer that he couldn’t reuse, I probably wouldn’t hold him back from doing that,” Ochowicz said. “I can’t say for certain because I don’t know what he would be offered or if he’s had an offer. I do know that he’s had discussions with other people and that’s fair, that’s fine, I have no problem with any of our players doing that. But I don’t think that he’s going to jump to conclusions. We have a long relationship together and respect each other profesionally and as friends. Nothing is going to be like tomorrow you’re going to wake up and see that Greg has signed with someone and I’m not going to know about it.”
For now, Ochowicz said the team is focusing its energies on the sponsor search, as well as its preparations for the resumption of racing. Indeed, Ochowicz is hoping that the latter could help spur along the former.
“I’m looking forward to the racing season starting because it is part of the sponsorship sale process to get interested clients out to live events,” Ochowicz said. We’re all still a little bit uncertain about how our sport is going to be managed by the organizers in the field and how teams will move about during the start of the season in August. I do believe that once we start racing it will also add more opportunity for us to close on one of those deals that we might be discussing right now.”