Will Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step) finally win a big one this season? The former world cyclocross champion is counting on it.
After nipping at the edges of a major monument, the 32-year-old Czech rider is hoping the stars will finally align for him this year.
“I think the shape is there,” Stybar said. “Now we are just waiting on the result. I think I am ready for it.”
Twice second at Paris-Roubaix (2015 and 2017), Stybar enters the northern classics on the heels of a solid spring. There have been no wins, but he was seventh at Strade Bianche — a race he won in 2015 — and fifth in the final road stage at Tirreno-Adriatico. On Friday, he was marking wheels in the front group to finish ninth as Quick-Step Floors dominated E3-Harelbeke with Niki Terpstra soloing home the win.
“I had quite a good feeling. The race was really hard. The race was full-gas and it never easy,” Stybar said of Friday. “You might think it’s easy to sit on the wheel, but everyone was on the limit.”
Stybar, 32, is an essential piece of the Quick-Step arsenal coming into the 2018 northern classics. The team has been on a roll, winning six consecutive Belgian races it’s started, topped by Friday’s big win at Harelbeke. Now it’s crunch time, with Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in quick succession.
It’s obvious that only first place counts now for Stybar. Last year, when he was second behind Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), he said just that. “You cannot be satisfied with second in a race as important as Roubaix.”
Stybar has equal billing with Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert and Yves Lampaert riding into the major monuments. Gilbert lines up next week as defending De Ronde champion while Terpstra is a former Roubaix winner in 2014.
“There are a lot of egos on this team, but when they step out of the bus, they leave the egos inside,” said Quick-Step general manager Patrick Lefevere. “This is a team of equals after Tom [Boonen]. Everyone gets their chance.”
That’s something that Stybar is banking on. If Friday’s racing collective is any indication, Quick-Step looks to be the dominant force coming into Flanders week. Lampaert and Terpstra attacked early, and Gilbert and Stybar marked the wheels. Stybar hopes to get his chance, especially at Roubaix where the cobbles favor his style.
“Everyone gets their chance, and it’s also about getting into the situations,” Stybar said. “No matter who wins on the team, we have to be happy about the result.”