Zdeněk Štybar Interview: “For the Spring Classics we are the best team in the World”
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Zdeněk Štybar Interview: “For the Spring Classics we are the best team in the World”

by Ben Atkins at 3:11 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Cyclocross
Czech star explains his absence from the Louisville ‘cross Worlds as the road season approaches

zdenek stybarThere was a chorus of groans from across the Atlantic when Zdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) announced that he would not be seeking a third cyclocross World title in Louisville, Kentucky, but the Czech star has made a shift in his career. Since joining the team in March 2011, ‘Štyby’ has changed his focus towards road racing, and a trip to the United States does not fit in with his plans for the spring.

VeloNation sat down for a few minutes with Štybar at the recent Omega Pharma-Quick Step team presentation, as he elaborated on his reasons, and explained that he was not disappointed to be missing out on the Louisville race.

“No, actually not,” he said. “You know, I’ve really changed completely, my mind. I made the change, I go now for the road, I go 100% for the road, and nothing less than that. It’s just that I made a choice two years ago, and now it would be stupid if I was just going to the World championships this year.”

Štybar’s new focus means that, not only would riding the Worlds affect his preparation for the Classics, but that Classics preparation itself would affect his chances of taking a result in Louisville.

“It would make no sense because I would not be ready for the Classics,” he explained, ”and that’s the reason why I changed to the road, and also I would not be 100% in Louisville.

“I’m not in that position that I can,” Štybar added. “If I was sure I could win over there then okay, I’d go there, but with the really top riders I didn’t win one race. So it would be a little bit [stupid] to go there and think that I will be world champion.”

Sadly for the chances of Štybar’s possible participation in the ‘cross Worlds - while many riders have welcomed the fact that the race is being held in the expanding market of the United States - the thousands of miles of travel are one of the biggest disincentives for the Czech rider.

“I was really thinking about it, also because of Specialized, and our sponsors,” he admitted. “I thought ‘okay it would be nice to do this,’ but on the other hand I will lose three weeks of preparation. I will have to come back and change everything, I will have to go back with the cyclocross bike and train intervals, go for it and fly there one week to ten days before the race, then after the race: jet lag, get back and maybe do some races on the road.

“I would not be ready for the races, and also I’m not really motivated for the moment to do the time now,” he added. “I’m in the environment of the team and I really like it; it’s just something else, it’s something new for me, so I really want to go 100% for the road.”

Having stress-free fun in the Christmas mud

zdenek stybarŠtybar did ride cyclocross this winter, but his seven-race programme - either side of the Christmas period - was more for fun, and some variety in his winter training, than a serious search for results. After a fourth place in the Bpost Bank Trofee race in Essen, however - where he was actually relegated from victory after bringing down Jan Denuwelaere in the sprint - he failed to miss the podium in any of the races that followed. His only actual win came at the end though, as he retained his Czech national title.

“You know I really enjoyed it,” he smiled. “I went to the races without stress. For the first time in, I don’t know, seven to ten years I didn’t do to sleep before midnight on New Year’s,;I was just waiting for the real midnight, to open the Champagne with my girlfriend; we went out and saw the fireworks.

“So it’s something else, something new,” Štybar explained. “For Christmas I was relaxed with my parents. Normally the 25th, in the morning, I’m leaving for Zolder at eight o’clock, to be there on time to do the recon; this year I just did four hours in the mountains in the Czech Republic, because it was 12 degrees, and then afterwards I was just driving myself 700km for the race.

The Boxing Day Zolder World Cup saw him finish third, despite barely checking out the course beforehand; he then took second in Loenhout two days later, but not before presenting Denuwelaere with a cake to say “Sorry;” a further gesture to add to the already accepted apology.

This was followed by two third places in Breden and Diegem, and a second in the GP Sven Nys in Baal, before going home to successfully defend his national title.

“So I was not really 100% focused, I was just enjoying it, and taking it easy, but still I got some good results,” he said.

Hitting the road full time and hoping to build on a solid 2012

A first full road season for Štybar saw him take two victories, with a prestigious win on the top of the Mont Cassel in the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque - as well as second place overall - followed by a sprint victory in the Tour of Poland. He also rode his first Grand Tour at the Vuelta a España, and ended the road season with a battling tenth place in Paris-Tours.

Like the rest of his team, has his early season mapped out for him, as he builds up for his main targets of the spring.

“I will start with the Mallorca Challenge,” he said, “and after that I do Oman, and then the Opening Weekend [of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne - ed].”

Since speaking to the Czech rider, however, this plan has changed, and he will instead start his 2013 campaign at the Tour of Qatar on Sunday, February 3rd, in place of Belgian champion Tom Boonen.

The desert race has consistently provided the Classics specialists with seemingly ideal preparation, with its exposed flat roads, which should stand Štybar in good stead. The experience of riders like Boonen, as well as Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s history of Classics victories, the Czech hopes that some will rub off on him.

“I really want to focus on the one-day races, but for the Spring Classics we are the best team in the World, so for me it’s also really important to learn from them - from guys like Tom - to get as much information as possible, about the track, to learn as much as possible, and I hope in one of the races to get some good results,” Štybar said.

Cyclocross riders often make a successful transition to the cobbles, with four-time Paris-Roubaix winner Roger De Vlaeminck the prime example, so there is also a chance that some of Štybar’s skill and experience may rub off on his teammates.

“We’ll see, for me it’s also going to be something really new,” Štybar smiled.


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