Stybar looked like a sure thing for the podium last year, if not victory, before he was foiled by a fan’s camera. Despite his previous performance, Stybar is far coyer on his prospects than most. "I don’t think I am between the favourites. I just hope that I can get there in a good position and to stay with the favourites and make as good as possible result," he told reporters at the Omega Pharma-QuickStep press conference, ahead of Paris-Roubaix. "I never really like to talk about winning. As I said, it’s only the second time for me, but I really believe as a team that we can win the race."
QuickStep will have a battle on their hands with the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke all in flying form, plus a whole host of realistic contenders for the top three spots. "I think, for sure, on paper that we can do it but it’s always difficult to finalise it and to make it. I think that Tom will be better than on Sunday, so I think that he will be there in the final," said Stybar.
Stybar didn’t join teammates Tom Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh at Scheldeprijs choosing to skip the mid-week race after a tough Tour of Flanders last Sunday. He had previously said that Flanders was his preferred choice of the two cobbled monuments, but could only manage 18th on the day. Vandenbergh, who finished fourth, was the team’s best performer at Flanders, despite putting QuickStep putting three riders into the top 10.
Considering the firepower with which the team entered the Tour of Flanders, the result they left with was disappointing. However, Stybar still believes that he and the team are in good shape for this weekend. "I think I was not too bad (at Flanders). I think that the shape was there pretty good, but in the end maybe we could do some different moves. After the race it is pretty easy to say it’s in the war of the race and after 240km it is difficult to think wisely and to take the right decisions."
QuickStep’s roster will remain unchanged from the eight men that rode the Tour of Flanders, with Boonen and Niki Terpstra resuming leadership of the team. The Belgian outfit have enjoyed some good results this spring. However, after missing a podium spot at the team’s most important race of the year, the pressure is on for them to at least finish on the rostrum or this Classics campaign could be considered a disappointment.
When asked what the team needed to do to not repeat the failures of Flanders, Stybar had a simple plan. "It’s very easy just be there on the track with the best guys, which is Tom who can make a really good sprint. Then he just has to out sprint the other guys or do it alone like he did in 2012," he joked.
Stybar is making only his second appearance at Paris-Roubaix and still has the starry-eyed expression of a neo-pro when he talks about taking the start line. He admits that there is still a lot for him to learn about the race, but he has already taken so much from his little experience of the Hell of the North. "First of all, you can really panic during the race. Sometimes it can look so bad that you enter some of the sections really far back, but you can always improve and move up and of course that the spectators have a big part to play."