Zdenek traditionally calls the press together a few days before the World Championships and this year is no different. Zdenek talked about the supporters, the course and his desire for a new gold medal.
Zdenek, are you afraid of the supporters?
Absolutely not. I’m just afraid of the noise. Maybe I should just wear earplugs like Niels Albert. Although I’d better because then I can hear what the Belgians are saying to each other.
You know there’s a lot of pressure on the Belgians.
I’ve read the newspapers too. Everyone against Stybar! I know there aren’t many other riders who can make things difficult for the Belgians. But if they all ride against me, I don’t know. It is a course where tactics can come into play.
If a Belgian has a 20 second lead after a lap or two, they’ll all look to me. I have to be alert from start to finish and not make any mistakes.
Who are your main rivals?
The seven Belgians. Yes, really. Just look at the results from Hoogerheide. I was second and the rest of the top eight included seven Belgians. And all seven of them really want to beat me. Whoever does that will be a national hero.
You have to save your season here.
Why does everyone always say that? If I don’t win the World Championships, then everyone says my season was a failure. But look at the general classifications: I’m in the top three of all of them. Agreed, I won fewer races, but if you come up against a strong Kevin Pauwels, it’s difficult.
You’ve made Koksijde your main goal.
Absolutely. I think it was in mid-December when I sat down with my team and decided to focus completely on the World Championships. I’ve come here in top shape so I’m ready.
What do you think of the course? You rode here for two hours yesterday.
I didn’t really learn anything new. I already knew everything. We’ve already ridden here a lot. I just made a solid workout of it. I know where the good tracks are: near the barriers. Is it dangerous to ride so close to the supporters? It’s not too bad.
You’ve been living in Belgium for about seven years now. Is this like a home race for you?
No, I don’t feel that way. Although the people here appreciate me and I have a lot of supporters here, it’s not the same for me as Tabor a couple years ago. But I think if you ask any Belgian who he or she wants to win on Sunday, nobody will say my name. And that’s purely for their own safety!