Three-time cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Štybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) will return to the discipline again this winter and line out in eight races as part of his preparation for the 2020 road season.
Last winter Štybar competed in his first cyclo-cross events in two years when he participated in four races over the Christmas period. He went on to enjoy a strong Classics campaign, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsbland and the E3 BinckBank Classic, which has encouraged him to add further cyclo-cross races to his programme this time out.
On Wednesday, Deceuninck-QuickStep announced that Štybar will tackle eight cyclo-cross races in the coming weeks: IKO Cyclocross Essen (December 7), Telenet Superprestige Zonhoven (December 8), Waaslandcross Sint-Niklaas (December 21), Zolder World Cup (December 26), the Azencross in Loenhout (December 27), Telenet Superprestige Diegem (December 29), Cyclocross Bredene (December 30) and the GP Sven Nys in Baal (January 1).
"I'm really happy to be doing cyclo-cross again," Štybar said. "It's not just that these races fit really well in my program, it's also the fact that these are some great events, with fantastic crowds and amazing atmosphere – especially those between Christmas and the New Year – that makes me so excited about taking to the start."
Štybar began his professional career as a cyclo-cross rider and won the Worlds in 2010 and 2011 before switching his attention to the road when he signed for QuickStep in 2012. He continued to race a sparing cyclo-cross programme in the early part of his tenure on the team and added a third rainbow jersey in 2014 before stepping away from the discipline to focus exclusively on the road.
Over the past two years, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel have mixed a full cyclo-cross schedule with strong Classics campaigns. That successful merging of disciplines has no doubt encouraged Štybar to augment his own cyclo-cross programme this year, though he stressed that his ambitions for the upcoming races are limited primarily to building form for the road season.
"I know it will be difficult to move to the front after starting from the last row against all those riders who by that time will have half a season under their belt, but this doesn't dampen my enthusiasm," Štybar said.
"I have the same goals as last year: ride my Specialized bike and have fun out there, chat with the fans and train for next season, because cyclo-cross is a really great way of building up for what I hope it will be another nice year with the Wolfpack."