Current world cyclo-cross champion Sven Nys believes only a few of the top 'cross racers are capable of highly successful road careers and one of those is the relative new-comer Zdenek Stybar, who was in a position to win the 'Hell of the North' in his first participation if not for colliding with a spectator with less than 15km remaining. It signalled the end of his race but according to Nys, he's riding style is perfectly suited to the cobbled races that litter the early part of the season.
"Zdenek perhaps lacks experience, but he can push his boundaries like no other," Nys told Nieuwsblad. Lars Boom [former 'cross star] is perhaps intrinsically more talented as a road racer, but I see Stybar as being up there, just because he's a maniac," he added.
Stybar, a two-time 'cross World Cup and World Championship winner appears to moved over the road with relative ease. Last year he won a stage at the Four Days of Dunkirk and finished second-overall before picking up a stage win at the Tour of Poland later in the season. It was an impressive year for the 27-year-old who only begun his road career, full-time, in 2012.
"Stybar often lives like a priest," said Nys. "Cycling is his life. I train in Mallorca and I think it will not be long before I see him here. It's where many classics riders live.
"For Sunday Stybar had the belief he could do well at Paris-Roubaix, both in his head and legs, I'm sure. I've heard through the grapevine that he was almost laughed at because his team thought he was exaggerating. But they are not laughing anymore," joked Nys.
The rider who started and finished his first grand tour at the Vuelta a Espana in 2012 attended to his first spring classics campaign riding for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step in 2013 and considering every race was an unknown quantity, his results speak volumes for his natural ability in the 'hard man' races in Belgian and France.
"You saw Stybar grow throughout the spring. He was ready to play a significant role in Paris-Roubaix, a race that fits him like a glove," said Nys.
While his final placing at Roubaix, sixth, could be one to lament over a missed opportunity, his consistency and ability to get through a full complement of spring races is another testament to the Czech's promise as a future classics contender.
"I believe in Stybar because he proves that 'cross riders can move to the road, only if they have a big engine. In my opinion there are only three 'cross riders capable of doing so: Boom, Stybar and Niels Albert."