Zdeněk Stybar will not ride for QuickStep-AlphaVinyl in 2023 after the team declined to offer him a new contract. The Czech revealed his contract status after finishing second to Victor Campenaerts at the Tour of Leuven on Sunday.
"I've been told that I'm not going to be re-signed," Štybar told Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab). "I still want to keep racing in any case, because the last two years haven’t been good enough. Is there any interest? That's a question mark, given my age and the health problems I've had."
The 36-year-old has raced for QuickStep since 2011, winning Strade Bianche, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke during his tenure on the team. He also placed second at Paris-Roubaix in 2015 and 2017.
Štybar has been blighted by health issues in recent seasons. He underwent a cardiac ablation procedure in April of last year after he was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia, while his 2022 Classics campaign was ruined by illness.
"The past two seasons were a string of setbacks: illness, COVID-19… Take this year: the first three days of Paris-Nice were good, and I thought I was on the way to a good Spring. But then I got sick and never really got back in shape," said Štybar, who acknowledged that his second place in Leuven was a timely reminder of his quality as he searches for a new team. He also signalled his intention to race more cyclo-cross next winter.
"In that sense, this second place is not unimportant," he said. "I'm going to finish the season with a maximum of 40 racing days, that's too little. That's why I want to do more [cyclo-cross] races next winter. Still, the road remains my main goal because there are some goals I haven't reached yet. But if no team shows up, then that's just the way it is."
In Leuven, the three-time cyclo-cross world champion was beaten in a two-up sprint by Campenaerts after they escaped with 25km remaining. Štybar would ordinarily have expected to beat Campenaerts in such a scenario, but he was overpowered by the Belgian after leading out the sprint.
"The wind was blowing against us, and I had to wait a really long time. At one hundred and eighty meters from the finish I attacked, probably in too big a gear. After such a tough race, it's not always the fastest who wins," said Štybar.
"The trip back from the Tour de Pologne was also still in the legs. I had to get up at 5am on Saturday to fly from Poland via Vienna to Brussels. That was quite an exhausting day."
In his column in Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, manager Patrick Lefevere wrote that five of his riders were out of contract for 2023, with the departure of Mark Cavendish and the retirement of Iljo Keisse already confirmed, but that Dries Devenyns has signalled a desire to continue racing for another season.
The Belgian is world champion Julian Alaphilippe's key domestique. "I'll just wait and see: Dries is honest enough to indicate whether or not he can take an extra year," Lefevere wrote.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.