Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team cross racer Zdenek Stybar finished 13th in a UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship dominated by Belgian athletes on Sunday in Koksijde. Niels Albert (BEL) is the 2012 world champion, winning by 24 seconds with a finishing time of 1:06.06. Rob Peeters (BEL) took second, and Kevin Pauwels (BEL) third as a group of five or six Belgian riders battled for the remaining podium spot. "I had a really bad day," said Stybar after the arrival. "Already in the warm up phase on the rollers I didn't feel very well. Maybe also because of the slight fever that hit me yesterday evening. I tried not to dwell on it and stay focused on the competition."
Stybar was the only rider to get close to Albert on the opening lap, as Albert's gap on the field started early. However, Stybar was unable to stay on Albert's wheel on a highly technical course. The course included a tough sandy and uphill section many riders struggled with.
"At the start of the race when Albert took off I knew he was going to be a tough customer; he loves these types of routes," Stybar said. "I tried to keep up with him but my legs weren't responding as they usually do. Lap after lap I was losing positions."
Pauwels was alone chasing Albert until Sven Nys (BEL) started catching him with seven laps to go. Nys caught Pauwels with a little more than six laps to go. However, a group of chasing Belgians worked together to catch the Pauwels and Nys, and eventually caught the two with slightly less than two laps remaining.
Stybar stuck with the chasing Belgian group until five laps remained. He was sixth up until that point. He then remained in 9th place until the final lap. "The thing I liked best about today was the affection from the crowds," Stybar said. "The further back I fell in the classification, the more the public supported me. I'd like to thank them all; it was a magical moment, unforgettable."
Many wonder what is next for Stybar, and he made sure to address what he wants from his future. "Will I still do cyclo-cross in the future? We'll see, right now I don't know how to answer that," Stybar said. "We'll talk it over with the team at the appropriate time. Now I want to recuperate and think about the season ahead on the road. I still have lots of races ahead of me in which to do well and recover from this first part, which has been a bit lackluster. Honours go to Albert and the entire Belgian team. They were motivated, racing on their home turf and they deserved the victory."