While Zdenek Stybar led the Czech charge in the elite men's race at the 2010 World Cyclo-cross Championships, his was just one of a number of stellar performances by riders from the host nation this year in Tabor.
Behind the new World Champion came a steady stream of his compatriots, with Martin Bina, Martin Zlamalik, Radomir Simunek, Kamil Ausbuher, Ondrej Bambula and Petr Dlask all active during the race. The top-ten performances by Stybar, Bina, Zlamalik and Simunek in the elite race came just 24-hours after Tomas Paprtska's triumph in the junior men's race. It was a strong showing across the entire Czech selection.
During the first two laps of the elite men's event, Radomir Simunek was riding near the front and even led the race for a period. The son of the last Czech world champion (Radomir Simunek Snr, in 1991), he had high hopes of a good performance in Tabor but health problems affected his race. During the third lap Simunek lost position as he swapped bikes and never returned to the front of the race, eventually finishing in eighth place.
"It was very good but I didn't have a good day. My foot was a big problem but I was a bit sick too. I didn't get enough air with this cold weather. The crowds screamed me forward early on and they made me do more than was possible," Simunek told Cyclingnews.
While Simunek went backwards during the race his compatriot Bina had a bad first lap and had to fight his way back into the race from a distant 18th position. "During the first lap I stumbled over the hurdles and went down," Bina told Cyclingnews.
By the time Bina reached the front of the race during the fourth lap Stybar had just gone clear. Bina never let go of a top-five position and eventually battled with Belgian star Sven Nys for the remaining podium spot. Despite the cold weather both riders dug deep as they attacked one another in the closing laps before Nys prevailed in the final sprint.
"With three laps to go it felt as if my legs were frozen," Bina said. "Finishing just off the podium makes it very bitter but Nys just had that little extra in the end. I'm happy with my performance but disappointed with the result," Bina said.
Despite a fourth place during the first World Cup of the season in Treviso, Italy, Bina never again cracked the top-five in the World Cup. Still, Bina wasn't surprised by his peformance at the World Championships. "All season long I have been focusing on this single race. That's why I was so good. The support of the crowds helped of course," he said.
Belgians left disappointed
The Czech Republic's strong performance swung the limelight away from the normally dominant Belgian contingent, leaving them looking for excuses. Belgian national coach Rudy De Bie had to acknowledge the strength of the Czech squad. "At a certain moment they were simply running away with the race. I've never seen that many Czech riders up front and of course Stybar was way too strong for us today," De Bie said.
"I'm not disappointed by the overall performance of the Belgian team but I did expect different names up front in most races. I was really supporting Nys to grab that third place and he pulled it off. Second and third was the most we could get today," De Bie conceded. Before the world championships De Bie expressed his hopes for five medals but the Belgian selection leaves Tabor with only one silver and one bronze medal.
With his success today Stybar became the first Czech to win the elite 'cross World title for 19 years. Radomir Simunek Snr was the last rider from the central European nation to achieve the feat in 1991. Simunek's son, Radomir Simunek Jnr, was one of a four Czech riders to finish in the top-ten, with Martin Bina just missing out on the bronze medal.
Stybar's win was a golden bookend for the Czech team, as the host nation moved to the top of the medal tally with two gold medals:
Gold medal tally:
Czech Republic – 2 (Tomas Paprstka – Junior men's, Zdenek Stybar – Elite men's)
Poland – 1 (Pawel Szczepaniak – Under 23 men's)
Netherlands – 1 (Marianne Vos – Elite Women's)
Silver medal tally:
Belgium – 1 (Klaas Vantornout – Elite men's)
Germany – 1 (Hanka Kupfernagel – Elite women's)
Poland – (Kacper Szczepaniak – Under 23 men's)
France – 1 (Julian Alaphilippe – Junior men's)
Bronze medal tally:
Netherlands – 2 (Daphny Van den Brand – Elite women's, Emiel Dolfsma – Junior men's)
Belgium – 1 (Sven Nys – Elite men's)
France – 1 (Arnoud Jouffroy – Under 23 men's)