Zdenek lived up to his favorite role at the Czech national championships. Our champion rode in the lead from start to finish and even had enough time to share his joy with the supporters before he crossed the finish line.
Partly due to the absence of Radomir Simunek, there was only one real favorite for the championship. “But don't forget Martin Zlamalik,” Zdenek warned. The Sunweb rider finished sixth last week in Baal and was expected to push Styby.
The temperature in and around Hlinsko had risen slightly in recent days. That meant the course, which had many ups and downs, was luckily not an ice rink, but rather full of mud. “I have a good feeling so let the race begin,” our man commented shortly before the start.
The race got underway at 1:45 pm and it was Karel Hnik, one of Zdenek's teammates, who was first into the field. The promising young rider didn't stay at the front for long though and once the favorite took over it was all but over. Martin Zlamalik gritted his teeth, but couldn't get on Styby's wheel.
Rather than Zlamalik, it was Jaroslav Kulhavy who appeared to be the biggest threat. The mountain biker, who finished second at last year's world championships, put Styby under pressure and was just ten seconds back, but he faded after half an hour.
Zdenek completed lap after lap in the lead and after a little more than an hour he was celebrating his fifth national title. Zlamalik was able to pass Kulhavy for second, but was still 53 seconds back. Petr Dlask, who finished third last year, just missed the podium and was followed by David Kasek and Vladimir Kyzivat.
“I'm really proud of this,” Zdenek said after the finish. “I don't know how many Czechs have managed to be champion five times, but I'm well placed in the list. The seven titles won by Radomir Simunek senior remain a goal, but let me enjoy this title for a little awhile.”
Styby also thanked his fans. “I know it's not easy to reach Hlinsko. It's 50 kilometers from the highway and to get here you have to go on some pretty crazy roads. My fans from Stribro made the trip and I'm extremely thankful for that.”
And the race itself? “It was pretty hard. There was some ice here and there in the mud. Kulhavy was never far away in the beginning, but after that I had the race under control. Is this the most important after the world championship? I don't think so, but I do have that nice jersey.”
“It's a very comfortable and good feeling to know that I'll be able to ride in different colors next year,” Styby admitted. “But the season isn't over. I'm already on my way to Vienna and tomorrow I'll head to Mallorca for a final training camp.”