Stybar relaxes pre-Paris-Roubaix. © Paul Burgoine

Stybar relaxes pre-Paris-Roubaix. © Paul Burgoine

by Paul Burgoine

In Paris-Roubaix, Stybar was robbed of his biggest result of his career by a fan or photographer stepping out of the crowd and almost forcing a crash. Here is his take on the events on Sunday: “I was in a perfect position following Cancellara, and I was feeling good that I was the best sprinter in the group. Then I caught my shifter on a spectator and my foot became unclipped from the pedal. When you lose 10-15 seconds in this race, it’s impossible to get back, especially after 240 kilometers. On one hand, I am extremely disappointed, but on the other hand, I am happy that I was in the final in my first Paris-Roubaix. One day I will come back and win this race. I think I made the right decision to shorten my ’cross season to compete in the spring classics.”

Pre-race, I caught up with Stybar to ask about his upcoming season, and what’s in store for the young Czech racer.

Paul Burgoine: This is your first season of Spring Classics. How do you feel it is working out?

Zdenek Stybar: It’s my second year on the road, but yes, my first time doing the classics. That was the reason for me shortening my cyclocross season. I would have liked to have seen a good result in these early races, but it is very difficult. Also, we were racing as a team and I didn’t even ask to be a team leader at this stage; I need the experience from my teammates, then in later years be able to try something on my own. But I have to prove myself first and gain the confidence of my team.

PB: Did you enjoy your experience in the Tour of Flanders?

ZS: I was happy after my race, it was one of the best days out on my bike ever. In the cyclocross, it is beautiful, a lap of around three kilometers with 20,000 people. Here we rode the 60k from Brugge to Oudenaarde and already there were thousands and thousands of people. The atmosphere was amazing, even in the shops you get the newspaper with the maps  with the route on them. It’s exciting; it’s really something special.

PB: Do you think you will ride ’cross again next season?

ZS: You know, next year, I think maybe I will do the same as this season, racing around the Christmas and New Year period. I enjoyed it: when it’s not good weather outside to train, I will race so I can keep my ’cross skills and fitness.  I think it’s good to do it and keep your skills.

Stybar wins the 2012 Liévin World Cup in France. ©Bart Hazen

Here, Stybar wins the 2012 Liévin World Cup in France. ©Bart Hazen

PB: Do you think you will ride the World Championships next season?

ZS: Well, it’s in Hoogerheide, so it’s not far from where I stay in Belgium where my girlfriend lives, only about 15 kilometers away from us, but it depends on the team because maybe we will go to Qatar again and you have to make sure of everything the team wants. I think next year could be my crucial year to see how far I could go in the sport.

PB: What did you think about the Worlds in the USA?

ZS: Actually I thought it was a good idea, but I think they should have the riders there for longer, maybe three weeks and have maybe ten races in that time, to build up the spectator interest. I think from just one race, it’s hard to tell how it will progress. It’s still a very Belgian sport and I think it will take a long time to change. Wherever you go in cyclocross, there are Belgian fans, even in Roma there were about 500 people and 400 were Belgium and the other 100 were Italians helping to build the track.

PB: What do you feel about Paris-Roubaix?

ZS: The race is very special like Flanders: the bikes are different, the materials are different. It is something I have dreamed about all my life. They are both very special races.

PB: Do you have any Grand Tours in your program?

ZS: It’s still undecided, but maybe the Vuelta. I rode it last year.

PB: What are your targets for the season?

ZS: It’s most important for me to learn as much as I can from this classics season and now I don’t know the plan for the second part of the season. We will sit down and decide for the second part of the year and analyze my races to see where I can improve next season.

PB: Do you find it funny how you keep getting mistaken for your teammate Michal Kwiatkowski?

ZS: Yes, it’s funny, even friends of my parents got a message from them, “Hey, the commentators are crazy, they are saying its Kwiatkowski in the breakaway but its Zdenek. I’m going to call them.” Even my dad was saying it was him, but my mother always recognizes me.

PB: How did all your supporters come to wear pink?

ZS: It started in the Czech Nationals. The fans knew I was going to ride a pink bike so they dressed with pink scarfs and pink hats, and then at the Worlds in Koksijde, pink was everywhere. It was fantastic.

PB: You are very entertaining on Twitter. Do you think it’s important to stay in touch with your fans?

ZS: I think it’s pretty important for the team. I have had Twitter for two years and on the years I didn’t race on the road, I wanted to know what was going on with the professional riders. It’s great to follow people and get to know their personalities.