Zdenek Stybar knows what it's like to wear the rainbow jersey after his three victories in elite men's cyclo-cross but he would like nothing more than to capture another world title in the elite men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. The Czech Republic rider says the urban, technical course with punchy climbs suits him and he plans on surprising everyone on Sunday.
"It's better like that… I will prepare to surprise," said Stybar when Cyclingnews asked if he has flown under the radar as one of the main favourites at this World Championships.
"I think this is a circuit that suits me and it's hard to predict how this race will go, especially with the rain, but I think my condition is good and I'd rather be the outside favourite than the top favourite for the Worlds."
The elite men's 260km race is held on a 16km circuit where the final four kilometres include three successive climbs though Libby Hill Park, up 23rd Street and over Governor Street toward the finish line. He has skills suited to the course in Richmond because it is a technical urban circuit and two of the short steep climbs include cobbles. Naturally, his cyclo-cross and Classics background could prove to be an advantage for him, especially under the predicted wet conditions.
"If it is raining, for sure, the race will be much more difficult," Stybar said. "I think it will be more dangerous if it's raining because of some oil on the road and there are some technical turns, lefts and rights. There are the cobblestones on the steep part of the hills, which will make it tough to ride up if it's wet, not for the guys at the front but if you are in the back of the bunch it will be tough to get up."
Stybar doesn't count himself among the top tier of contenders like Slovakia's Peter Sagan, Australia's Michael Matthews or the Belgians; Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, but he does think he will be there in the end if there is a small, select group coming to the line. And if that’s the case, he could catch everyone off guard the same way he did in La Havre when we won stage 6 at the Tour de France.
"That would be really nice if the finish of Worlds worked out the same as the finish in La Havre," Stybar said of his surprise winning attack on the punchy finish climb in France. "This is a one-day race and there are a lot of very strong teams like the Belgians, who I think will be the top favourites as a national team. We have to see how the race will develops but I think I will be there."
Stybar has had success this year with a win at Strade Bianche, second places at E3 Harelbeke and Paris-Roubaix, and then a stage win at the Tour de France. His second half of the season has also been strong with third overall at the Czech Cycling Tour and most recently fifth overall at the Tour of Britain.
"I came out of the Tour de France feeling really good," Stybar said. "That surprised me because I was feeling OK. I took one week off and had a very nice race in the Czech Republic, which was a good start to the second part of the season. After that I did an altitude training camp in Livigno, Italy, before going to the Tour of Britain, which was a good test for the Worlds and also a very good build-up as far as preparation."