For the first time in many years, it's not a Belgian who is dominating the muddy fields of Flanders and northern Europe in the cyclo-cross circuit, rather it is the big Czech world champion Zdenek Stybar who has won eight of nine races started..
The only race Stybar has not won was a memorial race for Radomir Simunek, won by his son Radomir Simunek Jr. Stybar has shown that he excels at almost every aspect of the sport and it doesn't seem likely he's going to finish far off the podium in any race this season.
After his gutsy ride in the Zonhoven Superprestige, the world champion is expected to perform well during the Koppenbergcross on Monday. The course loops up and around the famous cobbled climb that is used in the Tour of Flanders.
The mud, the climb and the cobbles tends to make the race one of the hardest of the season. Can Stybar recover in time to win it?
“I hope to sleep well and recover in time,” Stybar said. “This week I already recovered well from the race on Tuesday in Tabor, despite adding in a big training ride on Friday. It's a classic race and one you always want to win.”
Stybar cleverly passed the role of top favorite on to Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) who finished third in Zonhoven.
“Sven is the cannibal and he won there nine times I think [actually seven -ed] I never won there so he's the one to beat,” Stybar said.
Yet after his victory in Zonhoven, Stybar was in pain, after what he described as his hardest race of the season. “I had to work very hard. On another course you would get a thirty seconds bonus with the same effort but here you get only hundred metres. In the sand you lose a lot of metres when you're in the lead. The others can follow your line and jump back to you when climbing out of the sand pit,” Stybar said.
The world champion had an incident on the last lap which could have been disastrous, but ended up not slowing him down much.
“Some people with a glass of beer in their hands had more eye for the TV-camera than for the race. I didn't expect people to stand there and they didn't see me coming. I hit them, had to move to the other side and then back, making me lose ten seconds; it could've been over,” Stybar explained.
Despite the incident the Czech was able to nail the win to his list of victories but one might wonder how long he's going to perform at this high level. We will find out on Monday.