Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) climbed on the stage 2 podium at Tirreno-Adriatico in Pomerance so many times that the local crowd were happy when his teammate Bob Jungels appeared to collect the best young rider’s white jersey.
Stybar made four appearances on the podium, as stage winner, to collect the race leader’s blue jersey, the red points jersey and the green mountain classification jersey.
He took them with his solo attack in the hilly finale of the stage to Pomerance and thanks to a ten-second time bonus, he now leads Tirreno-Adriatico by nine seconds, ahead of Greg Avermaet and Tejay van Garderen of BMC. More importantly he showed his Classics rivals that he is on form as the days tick down to Milan-San Remo and the cobbled Classics of northern Europe.
“I think its very important to win but most of all it’s important to be in good shape,” Stybar explained in the post-race press conference.
“You could see that Cancellara is in top shape, than Greg van Avermaet is on top shape and that Sagan is very, very good, Edvald Boasson Hagen, too. It’s very important to win in front of the Classics for your own confidence, too. I knew after Mallorca and Algarve that my form was growing in the right way.
“I trained very hard this winter and for the first time in my life that I was struggling between training and going into over training after Algarve. I was training so hard that I was on the limit. There were times when I couldn’t imagine to train for extra minute. Fortunately I’ve recovered from the hard effort of Strade Bianche and so I’ve got some freshness in my legs now. I knew that my shape would come up.”
A spontaneous attack
Stybar won a stage at the 2015 Tour de France in in Le Havre with a similar solo attack on the finale climb. That day was tinged with sadness after teammate Tony Martin crashed at the foot of the climb while wearing the yellow jersey and was forced to quit the Tour.
The Le Havre attack came in the final kilometre. This time it was longer, hard effort and included topping the final steep climb of the stage in Pomerance. Stybar made a huge effort but could recall every detail.
“Two or three weeks ago my directeur sportif Davide Bramati called and told this was a stage for me. The profile suited me and I’d seen a video but you never know how race will develop. It was about timing it right,” Stybar said, with his modestly failing to hide the quality and determination of his attack.
“We had two from our team and I knew that Gianluca Brambilla is very strong. When I went it was as a good moment to go. I was not too far behind on the climb and expected the bunch to ease a little over the top so then I made my attack. But it was very spontaneous. It wasn’t planned that I’d attack in that point.
“I looked behind when I went to know if someone was following me. When I saw nobody was coming, I knew it could work out. I knew there were a lot of turns and when we passed through the finish the lap before, so I knew what to expect. I knew I could recover in the turns and the little downhill in last 500 metres. Then I went full gas in the last 250 metres.”