World champion Zdenek Stybar continued his season-long winning streak in Ruddervoorde on Sunday afternoon, claiming the opening round of the Superprestige series over Bart Aernouts. With four wins in a row, the Telenet Fidea rider now heads to the first World Cup round of the season with confidence and good form.
Yet Stybar, who also won the GvA Trophy series opener, is cautious about declaring his form. "You can never say that you're riding a level higher than the rest because that's so dangerous; next race I can be a level below the others," Stybar explained.
The 24-year-old Czech faced a strong challenge from Belgian Bart Aernouts (Rabo-Giant), while other favorites like Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) focused on the battle for third place. But even with his commanding back-to-back wins in Belgium, Stybar says the early season wins are no prediction of things to come.
"Last year Niels Albert led all three classification in January but in three weeks he lost everything," Stybar said. "I just go for the next race and for now I'm just enjoying it. It might be the first and last time in this [world champion] jersey."
Stybar was complimentary of the performance of Aernouts, who has three podium finishes to his name this season - as many as he had in all of 2009. "Bart was an ideal partner in front," Stybar said. "I'm really happy for him. Last year he often narrowly missed the podium and now he almost won the race. I didn't want to try it like three laps before the end because I was really happy that he was with me riding for the win. We both live in Essen and sometimes we train together. He's my friend and I wanted to help him to grab his chance to get on the podium."
Aernouts nearly left Stybar behind in the sand pit on the penultimate lap, staying on his bike through the entire section while Stybar dismounted halfway through. "He tried really well and he actually surprised me as I couldn't ride through the sand. Then he quickly had a big gap which wasn't easy to close down. Once I was back in front I went as fast as possible to the technical part of the course. I figured it was the ideal moment to attack because he would be tired," Stybar said.
Winner of last year's Superprestige Series by just one point over Niels Albert, Stybar now leads Aernouts by a single point, while nine-time series champion Sven Nys is in third, two points back.