While several pro cycling teams have opted to put riders and staff on temporary unemployment, the CCC Team is the first to announce that it is being forced to suspend the majority of team support staff contracts, due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, rider salaries being heavily reduced for the remainder of the 2020 season.
CCC, the Polish footwear company which is the title sponsor of the team, says that the company’s revenue has dropped dramatically as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with share prices nearly 90 percent off their market highs from 2019. Speaking to Polish media on Thursday, CCC boss Dariusz Miłek said cost-cutting measures across the entire company could mean the men’s WorldTour team, as well as the women’s team, and development team could be “reduced or closed.”
“We are now fighting for our business,” Miłek told the Polish website Rowery on Thursday. “It would be immoral to reduce our number of employees while excluding cyclists [from cuts].”
Miłek, who grew to become one of Poland’s richest men from an international chain of shoe stores, took over the BMC Racing Team for the 2019 season as part of a three-year deal. It also backs CCC-Liv women’s squad, as well as a development team. Some 28 riders are on the WorldTour team, with 15 on the women’s team, including star Marianne Vos, and another 10 on the development team. The team had also employed more than 60 sport directors, mechanics, bus drivers, soigneurs and other support staff.
But while he said more details would follow in the coming weeks, less than 24 hours later, the team learned that it was essentially being suspended.
CCC Team President Jim Ochowicz said the team has been forced to take these measures in the hope that racing will resume later this year, and that the team could continue racing.
“The decision to make widespread cuts has been a painful process, and one that we did not foresee even a matter of weeks ago. The economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a drastic effect on business for our title sponsor CCC, and like other professional cycling teams, we are now faced with a lack of cash flow due to unforeseen reductions in our sponsorships. This aspect of our business is beyond our control. We know there will be no racing until June — at the earliest — but the situation is constantly evolving, and right now we can only act on a short-term basis. In order to have the budget to race, should the season start again, we have had to temporarily suspend all but a handful of staff, and heavily reduce rider salaries. As soon as racing can resume, we hope to be in a position to reinstate as many support staff as possible, and reevaluate our budget,” Ochowicz said.
The uncertain future of CCC Team comes as teams across the peloton are suddenly on shaky ground. Lotto-Soudal, Astana, and Bahrain-McLaren have all reduced or deferred salaries to try to weather a racing season already thrown into turmoil.
Speaking to journalists just before the restructuring was announced, team star and Olympic gold medalist Greg Van Avermaet admitted that pay- and staff reductions might be the only path forward.
“I think the most important thing is to be aware of what your sponsors are feeling about the crisis. If your sponsor is a supermarket, well, they are probably doing quite well,” Van Avermaet said. “But companies like CCC or Giant bikes — our biggest sponsors — are suffering from this crisis. And I think it is normal in these moments we have to be open for some kind of a pay cut. I think it is normal during these times. I am not able to do my job 100 percent and we need to get through this together.”
In order to allow the team to operate at a minimum level during the non-racing period, a very small number of support staff will retain their roles.
While he understood that the cuts would be painful, Miłek said, “Cyclists are not currently riding — and will not be riding for a long time — so they will not achieve the marketing goals set for this sport project.”
“This is a difficult time for everyone and we will continue to represent our sponsors and fans to the best of our ability, while we eagerly wait to get back to what we love doing; bike racing,” Ochowicz said. “We will do everything possible to keep the team going during this period, and hope to bounce back once the COVID-19 situation improves.”