Czech wonder Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) responded to the criticism he had received the past few weeks by answering with his pedals and prolonging his time as cyclo-cross world champion. Stybar dominated the elite men's 'cross world championships in Sankt-Wendel, Germany, on Sunday afternoon and left the opposition green with envy.
Back in November, Stybar sustained a knee injury which took him out of competition for several weeks. At that time, Stybar had won almost every race and topped the UCI's World Cup rankings after three rounds. The injury forced him to skip the next round of the World Cup in Igorre, Spain.
"The week before Igorre, I decided to go for Worlds. Skipping [the World Cup round in] Pont-Château was part of the plan. I risked everything in one card. I trained very well in Majorca, and some didn't believe how many hours I trained. The past hour, while riding here on the climbs, I thought about how I suffered in Majorca. I hope I don't have to do it like that every year," Stybar said.
"There was a lot of pressure from the Czech and Belgian journalists, but I wasn't stressed, not even during the morning of the race. I had more stress for the first race of the year in my hometown of Stribro.
"They say that winning the world title a first time is the hardest and that a second one comes easier. For me, this was a very special situation because everybody said I had to win," Stybar said.
The affable Czech highlighted the fact that anything could go wrong in a one-day race like the world championships. "In life, one hour doesn't mean a lot, but in the next 12 months the past hour will mean so much. At one moment, a supporter almost hit me with a tree branch. I don't know if he did it intentionally, but I just want to point out that anything can happen in a race," Stybar said.
The week before the world championships, a long transfer saga ended when Stybar signed a new contract with the Quick Step road team run by Patrick Lefevre. The Czech wants to test his abilities on the road during the next three years. In contrast to the switch by former world champion Lars Boom (Rabobank), Stybar intends to combine both cycling disciplines.
When asked whether he would be riding from Erpe-Mere to Oostmalle, which is effectively asking if he'll ride from the start of the Belgian cyclo-cross season in September until the last Belgian cyclo-cross race in February. Stybar replied with a clear "yes".
"It's a dream to be in such a team for the next three years. It will be a new world for me, just like when I joined the Fidea team four years ago. It was unbelievable to sit on the same table like my idols Bart Wellens and Erwin Vervecken, being a simple boy from the Czech Republic," said Stybar. "Now it's a step higher. I'm proud that I can leave my current team like I arrived: as a world champion. I couldn't give more to them than I did."
Stybar, a friend of Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), realizes that he might get blown away on the road and lack the success he has had in cyclo-cross. "Maybe in three years, I'll say it's a mistake but in a few years, I want to see how far I can go on the road, and I don't want to miss the chance to ride the biggest races."