Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) believes that he is back on track for the 2016 season after cutting down his cyclo-cross commitments. The Czech rider had originally planned to race around six events over the winter but chose to ride only one in December, saying that his form was behind where he needed to be after a long and stressful 2015.
Stybar had a lengthy 2015 that included riding all five monuments - Bram Tankink and Jose Joaquin Rojas were the only others to do so. Added to that, he welcomed the birth of his first child, all of which added up to a delay in his training. Stybar had to make the tough decision not to race his beloved cyclo-cross but is now happy with his form going ahead of his first races at the Mallorca Challenge. “In December it isn’t a catastrophe and now I think I’m right on the way,” Stybar told Cyclingnews.
“I really don’t like to go into cyclo-cross just to ride for 20th and to fight with myself. I just hate it. If I do it, I would really like to enjoy the racing and to fight for the big places and to be in the race not just to start because I can’t do that,” he said of his change of plans. “If I want to be in that condition, I will have to adapt my training schedule in December and then do all the races between Christmas and New Year and then I would have to recover. It’s good training but, in general, I would lose almost three weeks of specific training for the road season.”
Stybar is set to ride a similar early-season programme in 2016 as he builds up towards the spring Classics. Following the Mallorca Challenge, he will ride the Volta ao Algarve, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, plus all of the Classics right up to Paris-Roubaix in April. Following that, he will make a decision on whether or not to ride the Ardennes and attempt to complete all five monuments.
Stybar will then take a break and gear up towards the Tour de France in July, where he’s looking for another stage win, but he is not worrying about that too much right now. “It is way too early to talk about the Tour though because I am not really thinking about it at the moment. For me, it is full focus for the spring to try to be there in as good a condition as possible,” he said.
“I feel that every year I get a little bit stronger and more experienced. This year will be my fourth season and I hope that I can perform a little bit better than last year.”
Joining Stybar on the Etixx-QuickStep team at the Classics this spring will be Tony Martin. The German announced last week that he would ride at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in an attempt to make the squads for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Tom Boonen has already expressed his delight at Martin’s plans, saying that he’s a potential winner in Paris-Roubaix further down the line. Stybar also believes that Martin could be a key part to the Classics team.
“I think it is a very good idea,” said Stybar. “Tony is so strong that it is really nice he wants to be in the team and to help us. A guy with his capacities, we will really need him and I’m really happy that he’s in the team.”
The 30-year-old Stybar has been making steady progress at the classics, since his debut in 2013 where he looked on course for a strong finish at Paris-Roubaix until he was caught up in an incident caused by a fan’s camera. He had his breakthrough last year at Paris-Roubaix, finishing second behind John Degenkolb. Stybar also broke into the top 10 at the Tour of Flanders but believes that he could have done better had it not been for a problem with his teeth.
“I always thought that Flanders would be the race for me and that it would fit me better than Roubaix but, until now, I have always done better in Roubaix,” he said. “Last year I was in very good condition at Flanders but before Koppenberg I lost all five teeth from the front and it was so annoying. I completely lost my concentration so it was not a pleasure. I hope that it will be different this year.”
The problem with Stybar’s teeth stemmed from an accident at the Eneco Tour in 2014, when he hit a barrier during the run to the finish line. Stybar was left with teeth missing from the top and the resulting injuries required surgery. The replacement teeth rattled free on a number of occasions but he says that the problem is now sorted.
“It’s fixed now,” he said with a smile. “It has been one year and a hell of a lot of pain at the dentist so I am really happy that it is done and that this story is at its end because it was really so annoying.”