Quick-Step Floors have been, far and away, the team to beat at this year's Classics, with nine of their 24 victories so far this season coming on home soil, plus a handful of other podium places to speak of. Heading into the final cobbled Classic of the spring, the rest of the pack will be trying to prevent them from doing what they've done so often in 2018, but Stybar says that would be wrong.
"I think that everyone needs to do their own races. I think if they look only at us then they are not on the right way. We are doing our own race with our tactic and I think that they need to do the same," Stybar told Cyclingnews at the start of Wednesday's Scheldeprijs.
As has been the case so often throughout their spring campaign, Quick-Step Floors has more cards to play than they have domestiques in their line-up. It has served them well thus far, with Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Yves Lampaert telling the Belgian press recently that the departure of the team’s talisman has "freed" them. There have been times when Quick-Step Floors have been the embodiment of 'too many cooks spoil the broth' but they are riding on a wave at the moment and they have no plans to change their approach to racing.
"I think the morale can't be much better than right now. Everybody is in good shape, everybody is really motivated and now we are just going from race to race," explained Stybar.
"I think like with any other race that we've done until today, we have again four guys who can win. I don't think that the tactic will change, but we'll see how the weather will be and the conditions and I think that we will race how we did before."
In a team with so much success, Niki Terpstra has been their strongest rider and is the only one on the start sheet from the team who has won Paris-Roubaix in the past. Stybar still believes that it is best for them to have as many options as possible with a race as challenging as the Hell of the North. They also come with Philippe Gilbert, who is aiming to win all five Monuments, and Yves Lampaert, who finished seventh in his debut Paris-Roubaix.
"On those days someone can have an off-day, which hasn't happened until now," he said. "You don't know what's going to happen during such a long race. You also need to be a bit lucky to always be in the right place. Of course, to survive all the fights until you’re on the first cobblestones."
Stybar, of course, will be looking for his own glory this Sunday after two visits to the podium in recent years. On both occasions, the Czech champion was bettered in a sprint in the velodrome. First by John Degenkolb in 2015 and then by Greg Van Avermaet last season. He hopes that if it comes to another sprint it will be third time lucky but sees a solo bid, as Terpstra did in 2014, as his best shot.
"I was two times really close there and I just hope that when I get there on the track again that I can finish it off in the sprint or I must come alone," he told Cyclingnews.
There have been some mixed reports about the weather at the weekend with some expecting a bone dry race while others have predicted some rain. The opening part of the race should be held under sunny, warm skies but as it heads north the clouds will come in and there is a risk of some rain. It has been raining a lot in the build-up to the race and some of the standing water may go but the mud will still likely remain. Stybar's bike handling skills should come in handy if it does rain, but he’s among the many praying to the weather gods for a dry day out.
"A few days ago it was 21 degrees and sunny and now it seems that there will be some showers. I think that it will be a big question," said Stybar.
"Normally, it should be," he said when asked if a wet Roubaix suited him more. "But I also prefer to have a dry Roubaix than a wet Roubaix because then it will be much more nervous. You always have a bigger chance to be in a crash when it's wet then if it is dry."
Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.
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