Stybar mulls U.S. cyclocross worlds start

Cyclocross on hold for Czech star as he aims for a result in his first road worlds

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — American fans could have a chance to see two-time cyclocross world champion Zdenek Stybar race on U.S. mud early next year.

Stybar hinted he might line up in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2013 cyclocross world championships on February 3, despite being firmly committed to racing on the road over the next few seasons.

“I will race the Czech national championships (January 12) and if I am feeling good, I will race the worlds,” Stybar told VeloNews on Friday. “Right now, I will race cyclocross from December through the Czech nationals, then I will decide about the worlds.”

The 26-year-old is currently wrapping up his first full road racing season, competing Sunday in the world road cycling championship before Paris-Tours, but many are interested in what the Czech phenomenon will do on the ’cross bike.

He said he would start at least four major cyclocross events in December leading toward the Czech national championships.

Stybar has won five consecutive Czech national championships and promised he would be at least be at the start line in January, “because it’s in my hometown and my father is organizing the event, so I have to have a broken leg not to start.”

The Louisville worlds, however, is another story.

Stybar is now firmly committed to racing on the road and said his cyclocross career is on the second tier as he takes focus at improving on skinny tires. He recently completed his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España and will race in his first road worlds on Sunday.

“It was my dream to race on the road and when the offer came two years ago to race with (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), I didn’t hesitate,” Stybar said. “My dream is to win a spring classic. If the road does not work out, I can always come back to cyclocross in a few years.”

Officials from Specialized — Stybar’s team sponsor at Omega Pharma — said they would love to see Stybar race in Louisville, but said the decision will be made by Stybar and his team.

“We always leave those decisions to the athlete,” said Specialized’s Simone Toccafondi. “Of course, we would love it if U.S. fans could see Zdenek race in America in the worlds, but he will make that decision. We never put pressure on riders to do anything that would impact their performance.”

Stybar will race the road worlds Sunday for the first time, but revealed he’s hoping for more than just finishing the grueling 262km race. Stybar said he’s feeling “strong” coming out of the Vuelta and rode 300km in a training ride Saturday.

“I am not here just to participate. I want to go for a result,” he said. “We have seven riders on the Czech team. It is our biggest selection ever. We usually just have two or three. I hope to be there in the final. I am curious to know what I can do.”

Stybar said his cyclocross season would be dictated by his commitments with Omega Pharma. The team will hold a training camp in early December and Stybar will already be looking to make his road season debut by February, so his ’cross schedule will have to fit inside that window.

“Cyclocross racing can help me prepare for the worlds,” Stybar said. “It will be hard for me to do well in cyclocross this season because I won’t have any points and I will be lining up at 50th or 60th. It will be hard to get to the front or even to win.”