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Three-time UCI world cyclocross champion Zdeněk Štybar announced Monday that he plans on starting the 2021 world cyclocross championships this coming weekend in Ostende, Belgium.
“The World Championships will always have a special feeling, as it is where I have started my career and I have my special victories at the event,” Štybar said. “It was not expected that I would ride the worlds this year, but things have evolved.”
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With many road races canceling or delaying the start of the 2021 road season, the Czech rider wants to get in some racing and has been given a leave from the Deceuninck-Quick-Step camp.
“I weighed up my options and discussed it with Patrick Lefevere, as well the team’s management, and I am very grateful to have received the team’s support. So, from there I started the process of preparing the materials and decided that I will go for it,” said Štybar. “It would not have normally fit into my schedule, but things have changed, and having done a lot of training my condition feels good.”
While the former world champion started in nine ’cross races in the 2019-20 season, it has not been his focus in recent years.
“I am not going there with the expectation of winning this time, but I will go flat out to push myself and try to get the best result possible,” said Štybar. “There are two outstanding favorites in Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, but then after that, it is a quite open race for third place. The parcours will be nice and not too technical and will suit powerful riders. This is good for me, and as my last block of training went really well, it means that I can try to push hard.”
Štybar concluded his 2020 road season at the Vuelta a España in November.
The three-time winner of the ’cross worlds will be among several road racers also taking to the mud and barriers. Both favorites — van Aert and van der Poel — as well as podium contender Tom Pidcock will also start in WorldTour road racing events, once the season gets rolling.