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Sixth time's a charm: Zdenek Stybar on his Paris-Roubaix bad luck

Joe Robinson
23 Jan 2018

Close but no cigar, Stybar looks ahead to the 2018 Spring Classics campaign

Not many riders were in contention for the win at their first Paris-Roubaix. Tom Boonen and Roger de Vlaeminck were, finishing third and fifth respectively, but then again they ended up winning the race a record four times.

Fabian Cancellara withdrew on his first attempt and Johann Museeuw finished a respectable but albeit understated 12th.

Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) could have won his first Paris-Roubaix in 2013. Riding as part of a lead trio with Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke (EF-Drapac) all was going well until he rode into a fan on the mythical Carrefour de l'Arbre, slowing to a near stop, ending any chance of victory.

Since the bad luck of 2013, the triple cyclocross World Champion has only finished outside of the top five once. This includes second in 2015 and 2017, both time losing in sprints.

Winning the famous cobble has been just out of reach of Stybar since he crossed to the road six years ago and according to the rider, this isn't down to form or ability, but something out of his control.

'I have finished at Roubaix second, twice, losing both in a sprint in the velodrome. In 2014, if it would have been me that attacked and not Niki Terpstra I could have won,' Stybar told Cyclist.

'In the five years that I have raced this, I could have won on four occasions. I just need more luck.'

Luck is something that is necessary to win at the 'Queen of the Classics' but so is good form. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) proved this last year in spectacular fashion.

Roubaix was Van Avermaet's fourth win of the Spring, with victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgam.

He carried form and confidence from February across to April and that was the difference. 

Stybar realises this more than ever and is looking at this Spring differently.

'I think the goal this year is to be there from the start at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to the end in Roubaix.

'Inevitably I will focus on the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix but this year I just want to be in good shape from the beginning to the end.'

Being in good shape is important, especially as riding for Quick-Step Floors in the Classics is a task in and of itself. No cyclocross this Winter could be seen as an attempt to enter the road season with fresher legs.

Stybar will be competing against not only the rest of the peloton but riders within his own team. Terpstra, Fernando Gaviria and the return of Philippe Gilbert will play a part in the team's Roubaix tactics.

Gilbert is after winning all five Monuments, and Roubaix is top of the list. At 35-years-old, it needs to happen sooner rather than later, and it appears with the retirement of Tom Boonen, he will be option one for the Belgian team.

Philippe Gilbert back on his bike and celebrating the win at the 2017 Tour of Flanders

You sense that Stybar realises this with the presence of Gilbert and simply said, 'Boonen has retired but now we have Gilbert so nothing has changed.'

Stybar isn't thinking beyond the Classics at the moment. He usually follows this hectic month of racing with a rest before heading of to the Tour de Suisse or Tour of California, then follows the Tour de France but it looks likely that the Czech rider will debut at the Giro d'Italia.

Needless to say, it is clear that Stybar will not be looking beyond Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on the 24th February just yet.