Zdenek Sybar (Deceunick-QuickStep) says that he has fully recovered from the illness that hampered him at last week's Tour of Flanders. However, he says that he will not know if it will impact him at Sunday's Paris-Roubaix until he gets into the race.
Stybar was not the only rider that felt sick last week, with Philippe Gilbert also coming down with a virus. Stybar believes he may have caught the illness from his teammate after the riders roomed together over the weekend of the E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem. He says that he has been able to train as he would normally this week and is hoping it all holds together for the weekend.
"Now, if I'm sitting doing nothing then I feel fine, but it's more about maximum intensity when you go really deep then you feel how the body is," Stybar said. "It's a question I don't know. It can also work the other way, that Flanders pushed me a little bit harder into condition. I didn't go too deep because I didn't do the final, so I had to train extra hard this week because I didn't do the final of Flanders. I hope that it works out."
Stybar was one of the favourites going into the Tour of Flanders last Sunday after winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 BinckBank. However, he had nothing in the tank when the race was put under pressure and was eventually dropped on the Kruisberg, finishing 2:20 down on the winner Alberto Bettiol.
"It was frustrating because I had the feeling that I had the chance to win Flanders. The shape was there but for a race like this of nearly 280 kilometres, with the neutral start, everything has to be perfect. If it is not, then you don’t have any chance," said Stybar.
"I was hoping that I had just eaten something bad and that it would disappear because on Friday and I still did OK. I felt completely out of power, but I thought I don't want to pay too much attention to it because maybe it was just a bad day because of the influence of the stomach. I just wanted to forget about it.
"On Saturday I felt better again and on Sunday I woke up and said 'it will be OK'. The days before, I could not eat what I should normally eat. Those are all the little pieces that fall apart. I had some good moments and some bad moments, it was really going like this [motions up and down], the worst was when we went really hard and I just felt that I didn't have the power that I should have."
With a few days to recover, Paris-Roubaix gives Stybar an opportunity to end his Classics campaign as he began it. The Czech rider has been putting in the hard miles and even went on a training ride with his rival John Degenkolb on Wednesday. It was Degenkolb that beat Stybar in a sprint to take the title in 2015.
"He beat me there, so I just said we need to switch the places," Stybar laughed.
That was the first of two podium visits for Stybar in Roubaix and he took another second place in 2017 – this time behind Greg Van Avermaet. He has been in the top 10 in all but one of his appearances at the race – six in total – but he says that will not cross his mind when he sets off from Compiegne on Sunday morning.
"For me, it is a new race. I forget what went before. I can't even imagine how the race was in Harelbeke because it feels like it was half a year ago. I take it race by race. The past is the past and now we have new races and new chances," said Stybar.
This year's Classics have not seen one dominant rider and that was shown at the Tour of Flanders as many of the big favourites failed to get away and most of them finished in a big group behind the day's winner Bettiol. During QuickStep's press conference, Iljo Keisse said that he expected it would play out differently at Paris-Roubaix due to the brutality of the race. Stybar tended to agree with his teammate but said that the predicted wind forecast could change that.
"I agree with him because he meant that the race is so hard that the chance is really small that we will have a big group on the velodrome," he said. "The forecast now is that we should get a lot of headwind so that can change a lot. If there is a lot of headwind then there is the chance that a bigger group can come to the finish. Especially now, because a lot of riders are really close together condition wise, so it could happen.
"It's harder to attack, harder to ride away and if you make an acceleration on the flat part, for the contenders it is easier to stay on the wheel."