|Sylwester Szmyd (CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice)
(Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
With the second week of the Giro d’Italia looking like a quieter affair for the overall contenders, squads like Professional Continental formation CCC Sprandi Polkowice are aiming to take on a higher profile with the breakaways that are expected to form.
Asked at the start of stage 10 if he would signed on the dotted line for one stage win in this year’s Giro d’Italia, the Polish team’s head sports director Piotr Wadecki grins and tells Cyclingnews “of course.”
“Some of our guys have done the Giro d’Italia before like Maciej Paterski, and Sylvester Szmyd, who’s done the Giro 11 times. But the other guys are doing their first-ever Giro d’Italia and it’s something new for us.
“It’s been a very tough first week, too, lots of full-on racing, but we had a rest day yesterday [Monday] and I think we are ready for the next week.
“Normally we try for the breaks and look for our chance from there. We don’t have a sprinter, we don’t have a rider who can beat [Fabio] Aru (Astana) and [Alberto] Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the climbs so that’s our way to winning the stage.”
Although today’s [Tuesday] stage is unlikely to see any moves going away, Wadecki is hopeful that Wednesday’s hilly circuit around Imola will be a different story. “It’s a good stage for Paterski, teammate [Marek] Rutkiewicz and we will try to find a chance to be on the podium.”
Paterski, who won the opening stage of the 2015 Volta a Catalunya with an ultra-long-distance breakaway and then held the lead for two days, is described by Wadecki as “our best chance for a stage win. Our plan was that he was to get in a break on stage 3 [to Sestri Levante], and then after going easier on the other first week stages, we’ll see if he can get in another one.
“Our best day was stage 3, there was a break of 25 and when we got to the end of the stage, with eight guys there, we still had two guys on the front. But the speed of the peloton was really fast and they closed the gap before the finish. But it was quite ok for us, because for our sponsor it’s also really important to be seen [get television exposure].”
Wadecki is under no illusions as to how hard it is to be racing. “It’s going to be difficult because so many teams are trying to be in the breaks, the first step is to get in there and then the break has to get to the finish. But at the moment that's very difficult because Astana is racing at such a high level.
“We’ll see what happens but in the third week, we have Szmyd” - a winner on the Mont Ventoux in the Criterium du Dauphiné- “too, for the high mountain stages. He’s lost a lot of time already so maybe he’ll have an easier time getting into breaks. Maybe he’ll have a chance.”
This is just the second time a Polish team has raced in a Grand Tour. The first was back in the Giro d’Italia 2003, when the squad, with the same title sponsor, CCC but under different management was led by former race winner Pavel Tonkov of Russia. Their best finisher, though, was Poland’s Darius Baranowski in 12th and, as Wadecki - blessed with an excellent memory - points out, the squad also took a respectable fifth place in the teams classification, too.
Furthermore, Poland has a longstanding tradition of successful racing in the Giro d’Italia and Italy in general, ranging back to multiple stage winner Lech Piasecki - also the first (and only) Pole ever to lead the Tour de France in 1987 - Czeslaw Lang, who now organises the country’s title race, the WorldTour ranked Tour de Pologne, Zenon Jaskula and Zbrignieuw Spruch.
“It’s nice to know that our country has written a fair bit of cycling history here,” Wadecki says, “and hopefully we can continue that tradition.”