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QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC - SEPTEMBER 12: during the...

CCC laying groundwork for improvement in 2020

Team boss Jim Ochowicz optimistic for CCC-Team's prospects now that tricky first year is behind them.

Going into 2019, CCC Team boss Jim Ochowicz was targeting 20 victories for this new team’s inaugural season. Five was the official UCI tally, book-ended by the GP Montreal with Greg Van Avermaet in September and a stage win and a spell in the leader’s jersey at the Santos Tour Down Under with Patrick Bevin in January.

In between, things didn’t go quite as well as hoped. A few key injuries, some close calls, and a touch of bad luck didn’t help.

Yet hope springs eternal in bike racing, and everyone within the organization is optimistic that better days lay ahead.

“It’s been a struggle for us this year, but we knew that coming in,” said Ochowicz. “We’re planning for next year, and years beyond.”

Going into its sophomore season, the team is packing on some firepower. Worlds runner-up Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) adds some heft for the spring classics, while Giro d’Italia stage-winners Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Fausto Masnada (Androni-Sidermec), and Jan Hirt (Astana) add fresh legs for the grand tours.

These moves for 2020, with nine new riders and five departures, are part of Ochowicz’s plan to steadily nudge the team up the WorldTour hierarchy.

“We’re not going to win the Tour de France next year, but that’s not the objective and that’s not the goal for us right now,” he told VeloNews. “That takes some time, we’re not ready for that. We don’t have the depth. We’re going in that direction, and in two or three years, we hope to be a challenger again.”

CCC was a new WorldTour team for 2019, born from BMC Racing, which folded at the end of 2018, and CCC-Sprandi, a Professional Continental team. CCC owner and Polish billionaire Dariusz Milek was keen to step up to the WorldTour, and he linked up with Ochowicz midway through 2018 for talks. Ochowicz had the license, and Milek had the money. Poland’s first WorldTour team was born.

Like any new team, CCC Team faced familiar challenges of staff changes and creating chemistry with new riders. Injuries to key members Bevin and Simon Geschke disrupted the process. Most new teams take a while to find their groove. Things were coming together later in the season, and Ochowicz hopes to carry that momentum in 2020.

Like many other top WorldTour teams, CCC Team regroups this month along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast for an annual pre-season training camp. New riders get fitted out with jerseys, bikes and equipment are updated, and everyone takes stock of the season behind and the one ahead.

Even if Ochowicz doesn’t pack the punch to swing for the yellow jersey next season, like he did when Cadel Evans delivered the victory in the 2011 Tour, there’s plenty to keep the staff and riders motivated.

“There are a lot of nice bike races to win besides the Tour de France,” he said. “And even within the Tour, it’s nice to win a stage, to get a jersey.”

Most of the 2019 roster will be back, including Americans Will Barta and Joey Rosskopf. Top departures include Riccardo Zoidl (Team Felbermayr) and Laurens Ten Dam, who retires.

Like many teams across the WorldTour, CCC Team is also betting on youth. While it’s not picking up the top juniors, it is promoting three riders from its development team to the WorldTour next year.

“There’s a mix of old and new,” Ochowicz said. “We are fortunate to have two or three of those. We are thinking about developing the next generation, giving them a shot and see how they develop, and hopefully they will turn into a rock star.”

To try to win the Tour again, Ochowicz will need a rock star.