Two-time cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar will return to the charity cyclo-cross race "Boonen & Friends" this Saturday at the Zilvermeer in Mol, Belgium to defend his victory of last year. The race, started by Tom Boonen five years ago, has been increasingly successful in raising funds for the Move to Improve charity, which helps children with physical disabilities.
Last year, Stybar was a last-minute substitution for Boonen, who had to abandon his eponymous race because of a severe intestinal infection. The Czech was given a one-minute handicap to help give his less experienced cyclo-cross competitors an advantage, but still managed to win with a healthy advantage over Maarten Wynants and Pieter Vanspeybroucke.
This year, Stybar may get some competition from current 'cross pro Sven Vanthourenhout, and former U23 mountain bike world champion Jakob Fuglsang.
Also among the stars will be Jan Bakelants, who will donate one of the yellow jersies he earned in this year's Tour de France for the charity auction in addition to competing in the race.
"I only have five," he said of the jerseys, according to Sporza. "They have a great emotional value. But I would like to get one off the shelf for this purpose. Hopefully it brings a lot."
Boonen is clearly proud of the growth of the event. "We have been working on this 'cross for five years. It is a very big event," Boonen said to Sporza. "There is a whole organization behind it. The VIP evening is sold out before you know it."
"We have collected a huge amount of money to donate to Move to Improve over the years. We want to make something special of this anniversary edition."
Saturday's events will begin at 14:15 local time with the Champion's 'cross. The line-up includes: Johan Museeuw, Paul Herygers, Davide Bramati, Rolf Aldag, Marc Wauters, Joël Smets, actor Jef De Smedt and television chef Jeroen Meus.
The Boonen & Friends 'cross follows at 15:15 with Tom Boonen, Jan Bakelants, Jakob Fuglsang, Thomas De Gendt, Niki Terpstra, Wout Poels, Maarten Wynants, Gianni Meersman, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Kevin Hulsmans, Kurt Geysen, Stijn Vandenbergh, Frederique Robert, Nikolas Maes, Nick Wynants, Julien Vermote, James Vanlandschoot, Pieter Serry, Dennis Vanendert, Sean De Bie, Rob Ruijgh, Sven Vanthourenhout, Zdenek Stybar and Julien Alaphilippe.