We speak to CCC Team’s Łukasz Wiśniowski ahead of his imminent Hammer Series debut at Hammer Stavanger, 24-26 May.
Formerly of Deceuninck - Quick-Step and Team Sky, the Polish rider has joined up with Poland’s first UCI WorldTour team, CCC Team, in their first season:
This will be your first Hammer Series: Do you know much about the event?
What I’ve heard from the guys is that the races are short and very intense. I’ve got an altitude camp in Livigno soon, then Hammer Series, which will be a really good effort.
I think Hammer Series can be a great way to prepare yourself for a Grand Tour, it’s a perfect way to prepare your body for longer races. I’m looking forward to it. I know it will be full gas all day, one of the hardest races ever.
Hammer Series is very tactical - do you enjoy that element of pro cycling?
Of course, strategy is really important in cycling. You can be the strongest in the bunch, but if you have no idea how to win the race, it’s quite difficult. Then you need to be five times stronger. The first thing which is really important is your shape. The second one is strategy. All the team has to work together, to support each other, to win a race or a stage.
Strategy for Hammer Series is something we will have to learn. Hammer’s good for that, it’s a short race, it’s intense and you don’t have much time to think. You have to work faster and think faster, and that can be good for other races too. The Classics races are five, six hours, so there will be points where the bunch slows down, and you have time to speak to your team-mates and make a plan. But Hammer is such an active race, there’s very little time to think and the race never slows down.
Is the environment at CCC Team very different to Team Sky?
I have to say that I’m really surprised, in a good way, about how well the new CCC Team is working. I think it’s because you had two good teams connecting to each other: BMC Racing Team and CCC Team - they have a lot of experience, so we’re not starting from zero.
They were both well organised teams so to be honest I don’t feel a big difference between CCC Team and Team Sky, which is good. We have a really nice group of riders and staff, a really nice atmosphere, and I’m looking forward to meeting up with the team again after a short break.
What’s it like riding with Greg Van Avermaet?
Greg is a really nice guy. I’m still looking for the Classics races for myself in the future. So I think Greg is a perfect guy to learn from and it’s great that he can show me some tips how to race in Belgium. It’s something you have to learn in the Classics. It’s not just the parcours but also the tactics. As a rider and a person he’s a good guy, really friendly and it’s a pleasure to race with him.
What are your big targets for the rest of the season after Hammer Series?
The second part of my season will start at Hammer Series - then I’ll go back to the altitude camp, then I’ll race Tour de Suisse, the Polish championships, then probably the Tour de France. So that’s quite a lot of races in the second part: I’m really looking forward to it.
What’s your dream race to win?
I think the Tour of Flanders. I love to race in Belgium, the crowds there, all the people, it’s something amazing that you won’t find anywhere else. That’s my personal feeling. If I could choose, I would choose Flanders. The next day you wake up with a headache from the people cheering all around you, all the time they are screaming.
During the race, you don’t think about it, but afterwards, you realise it’s like you’ve just been to a concert. All the time everyone around you is screaming. It’s actually fantastic because it gives you a lot of power, especially if you are pulling on the front. It’s crazy, in a good way.
The road cycling scene in Poland seems to be growing strongly …
Every year cycling in Poland is growing. Especially now because we have a proper system. We have our first WorldTour team, and a CCC development team for the younger riders, plus an academy for the younger riders. Michał Kwiatkowski and CCC Team are supporting the development team, so we have all the categories.
In the past it was hard to find the right support at Under-23 level. But now we have all the steps that people need to be a pro rider and I think that will be really helpful in the future. Of course we need a bit of time to see the results, but I think it’s really nice in Poland now. I’m looking forward in the next few years and I’m sure we can have more riders at WorldTour.
Who inspired you as a young rider?
I didn’t really have a ‘cycling hero’ when I was a young kid. But when I grew up I always liked to follow Tom Boonen. Of course there were a lot of successful riders, but all the victories from Tom were memorable.
He won races in a different way that really inspired me and stayed in my mind. In the early years of my career I got a lot of support from Michał Kwiatkowski and Michał Golas, because we were living in the same city, and they supported me from the beginning.
Because of them, I was able to join the Quick-Step development team, so they helped me a lot in my career. But for a unique style of racing, the guy who I really remember, Boonen was the person I always followed, and was always nice to watch. And later on I met him at Quick-Step, and I raced with him for two years … so that was a dream come true.