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The Belgian superstar has confirmed that he is not eyeing other opportunities as his team faces up to the prospect of a lost year of racing and lost title sponsor due to the coronavirus crisis.
The team has been hit by wave after wave of bad news in the past month, first announcing a suspension of activity and slash in rider pay as Polish shoemakers CCC reeled on the ropes after plummeting market shares through the spring. And last week, the possibility loomed that the team may lose its sponsor altogether.
Riders are still in the process of attempting to negotiate a middle ground with their team to seek some reprieve from a potential 80 percent pay cut, but the 2016 Olympic champion and Paris-Roubaix winner Van Avermaet isn’t seeking openings with other teams.
“My focus is on my team, on survival. That is the most important,” Van Avermaet said.
While many WorldTour teams have been hit hard by the coronavirus racing stop and economic downturn, with EF Pro Cycling, Mitchelton-Scott, Bahrain-McLaren and others having to cut salaries and lay off staffers, others are weathering the storm with sponsorship commitments intact. The 34-year-old Van Avermaet hasn’t been tempted to seek a more financially stable home in the twilight of the career.
“It is quiet at the moment. We are certainly not the only team with problems,” Van Avermaet told VTM Nieuws. “We will first see what happens to us, then I still have time to decide.”
Last week, reports in Polish media revealed that CCC had suffered a 340 million PLN (81 million USD) loss in Q1 2020 and was considering a halting of all sponsorship commitments. However, with lockdown restrictions in Europe slowly being eased, Van Avermaet is hopeful.
“We are being kept well informed and hopefully there will be a solution,” Van Avermaet said. “The stores in Poland will open again next week, which may help our sponsor to continue to support our team.”
Earlier this week, Van Avermaet’s Italian teammate Fausto Masnada provided more insight into the internal battles over pay at CCC Team, which could see riders forfeit up to three-quarters of their salaries.
“The situation is not positive. We riders and our lawyers joined together and made a proposal to the team to meet us halfway,” Masnada told CyclingPro.net Thursday. “The situation set out by the team was really critical and it would have been impossible for us to accept their request. At that point, we have counter-proposed and we are waiting for their response.”
Masnada, who made the jump to the WorldTour this season, had discussed the possibility of a conclusion to negotiations in the coming week. In the meantime, the team is focused on getting through 2020 and going from there.
“We are working on it [negotiations],” Van Avermaet said. “But we are not going to give percentages to the press. The goal is to survive this season. And then next season. That must be our mindset. We know it is not certain, but we are all fairly positive. Although it is of course not ideal.”
Masnada added that while the financials are still being worked through, CCC Team is intent on seeing out the season.
“To date, the intention of the team is to end the season and be present at the races if they resume,” he said. “For the future, they still haven’t told us anything.”