Today in Liévin, France, at the end of an exhilarating, very fast race, Zdenek Stybar won his first trial in this season's World Cup series, coming in 16'' ahead of Kevin Pauwels and 30'' in front of another Czech, Radomir Simunek.
After a less than optimal start, the World Champion from the Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team soon found his racing rhythm and caught up to the athletes who were leading the race. Within no time 3 athletes formed a group: Pauwels, Simunek and Stybar himself. After a series of accelerations Simunek lost contact with the head duo, who were making their way towards the finish line. On the last lap, just a few metres from the stairs section, Stybar attacked with determination. In an attempt to respond to the attack, Pauwels slid and fell on the very first steps of the stairs and lost contact with the World Champion.
Stybar flew off towards the finish line all alone, crossing it with arms raised, proving - with only two weeks to go until the World Championship - that whoever wants to wear that rainbow jersey is going to have to go toe to toe with him first.
"And to think that I had come to France just to practice," said Stybar, who even kissed the handlebars of his Specialized bike with only a few metres to go to the arrival. "I was even late to the starting line! Then during the race I was feeling really good; I ended up out front and at that point I just went for it. I was also helped by Pauwels' fall; otherwise I'm not so sure I could have beaten him. The most important thing, anyway, is the fact that I'm improving day in and day out as the Worlds gets closer and closer. The victory in the National Championship gave me confidence, as does the fantastic feeling I get from the team."
Stybar will be racing again next weekend in Holland before going on to defend his World Championship title in Koksijde, striving to pull a historic hat trick after Tabor 2010 and Sankt Wendel 2011.
1. Zdenek Stybar 1h03'47''
2. Kevin Pauwels 16''
3. Radomir Simunek 30''
4. Sven Nys 44''
5. Francis Mourey 44''