2022 will be the Czech rider’s 12th consecutive season with the team.
Zdenek Stybar will continue with Deceuninck – Quick-Step next year after adding one year to his contract. A pro since 2011 – while making the full transition from cyclo-cross in 2013, a discipline where he took three gold medals at the World Championships – Zdenek is the first, and so far, only Czech rider in history to have triumphed at a cobbled Classic – the 2019 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke.
In addition to these, his palmares includes an unforgettable Strade Bianche victory and stage wins at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. In 2021, despite an ablation procedure performed to fix a heart rhythm problem discovered after Gent-Wevelgem, Stybar still posted several solid results – top 10 placings at E3 Harelbeke, Primus Classic and the World Championships, before drawing the curtain over his season at Paris-Roubaix.
“I’m really happy I can stay with the team. It will be my 12th year in the squad, that’s quite an achievement. I hope to end my career here in a couple of years. I’m so grateful, also because of the situation I was in. Last year I missed the Tour due to a knee problem, because of that I also wasn’t at my normal level in the Classics. Then I came back strong this year in E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, but I had a heart rhythm problem. So it was a really difficult year. I had to build up from zero again. I started racing again and fell in Hageland, which again made the comeback difficult. The Vuelta finally was the step I needed to get to my level for the Worlds. I was happy after all those months of working and hoping it would turn out well, it also did”, said the 35-year-old Zdenek.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step CEO Patrick Lefevere expressed his thoughts after the deal was signed: “We are delighted to continue together on this road that we began more than a decade ago. Zdenek is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton and an important member of our team, a real wolf who’s always giving his best for the squad. He also has a lot of quality, as evidenced by his victories, and we are confident he can still bring in strong results for the team next year.”
My dream is still to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Paris-Roubaix, I’ll focus again on that.
“Of course, the whole Classics period is my goal. I would also like to go back to the Tour de France, I didn’t really leave a nice feeling there last year”, Zdenek said about next season. “This year at first looked like a disaster, but it turned out well in the end. It was mentally exhausting, but I’m so grateful for the support I got within the team. The difficult period started from last year in the Tour. Then I had my normal level again at this year’s Classics, I even felt that in E3 Harelbeke I would have a chance to play an important role during De Ronde. But the Wednesday after Gent-Wevelgem I was on the way to the hospital to look into my heart rhythm problem.”
“I was thinking of the fact there could be three scenarios. The worst case would mean the end of my career, a second option was a minor surgery and some rest, the best scenario was that there wasn’t anything to worry about and I could just race Flanders. The same day they also announced that Paris-Roubaix would be rescheduled, so that brought a little bit of positive news, as I could set my goals towards the autumn edition.”
At the beginning of October, Zdenek got his long-awaited wet Paris-Roubaix, but things didn’t go smoothly: “I knew it would be super nervous and tricky. I couldn’t wait to compete, but during the race itself I wasn’t feeling that well. I got cold at some point and I struggled a bit with my stomach, I really couldn’t accelerate or do anything. And on such a day you need luck, but also super legs, nothing can go wrong.”
Off-season means family time, also for the experienced Czech rider: “I go to the forest often with my family and we have picnic and play there. We sit in a tree and just enjoy being together. When my son isn’t at school, we really make the most out of it together and have some quality time. We go biking sometimes as well. I’ll also do some CX races, just because I like it. It’s a really good preparation and there’s a nice atmosphere with all the fans. A bit like the Worlds in Leuven, but here you get this feeling in every race on a smaller parcours.”
Zdenek will soon turn 36, but isn’t thinking of ending his pro career yet: “I don’t have a date when I will call it a day. Some moments you think it has been good, other moments not. I think I’ll always keep on biking. When I’m not on my bike, I miss it. I made the transition to road cycling in 2013, so that’s not that long ago and I think that’s why I’ll be able to keep on going still for a bit. I’ll feel it when it has been enough, but that’s not the case yet.”
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images