The legend is departing. "But it was worth it," says Štybar's father.
Cycling fans around the world have witnessed every success of the thirty-eight-year-old legend and three-time cyclocross world champion, Zdeněk Štybar. It was not always easy. Thanks to hard work, unwavering diligence, and incredible effort, he reached the pinnacle. Zdeněk Štybar Sr., the father of the cyclocross legend, reflected on important milestones in his son's career.
At the recent Czech National Championships in Tabor, he nervously paced in the paddock, clutching a small cross in his hands. "It's my longtime talisman. I always hold it when Zdenek is in an important race. And it has always brought us luck, so I stick to the tradition," explained the father of the cyclocross legend. And it fulfilled its purpose this time as well, resulting in the bronze medal at the domestic championship. Triple world champion Zdeněk Štybar will compete in the last race of his rich career on the first Sunday of February, preceded by the team relay at the Tabor World Championship.
Zdeněk Štybar's parents, Zdeněk Sr. and Hanka, have had a sincere and friendly relationship with their son since his childhood. Despite the parents living in Stříbro and Zdeněk Jr. in Belgium, he still holds them in high regard and respect. "We are in touch every day. We call or write to each other. It's a paradox. Even though we are thousands of kilometres apart, we know everything right away—when, what, and where it happened," said Štybar Sr.
Every sports beginning is challenging, but in Štybar's case, everything was noticeably easier. The emerging star was clear about his goals from the start, relentlessly pursuing them. "Zdeněk brought me joy throughout his long sports career. I didn't have to push him into anything; he simply enjoyed sports. And because of that, it was easier for us," recalls Zdeněk Sr., adding, "When I woke up in the morning, he was already up and running. After school, he rushed to training, followed by school assignments. Especially in winter, we also went to the gym."
When it rained, he went to his grandmother's, who lived in a seven-story tower block. There, Zdeněk ran up and down the stairs. "Every time, I timed him. When he managed to improve, even by just a second, he could be happy for a long time. Even then, he saw how he gradually improved thanks to the regular training," revealed Štybar Sr., unveiling the simple training methods.
The races started for young Štybar at the age of four when he began with BMX. When he was eight, in 1993, he won the world title in Schijndel, Netherlands. "We wanted to defend another title. But the next championship took place in Michigan, USA. So I sold a "coupon book" to have the money to travel across the ocean. Seven Americans and Zdeněk made it to the final. But he had no chance against the numerical superiority and eventually finished fifth," said Štybar's father.
At the age of fourteen, Štybar tried cyclocross. "He always enjoyed and was interested in it. So we tried it. We were lucky to come across coach Vojta Červínek at that time. And he guided him to higher goals, which he soon achieved," recalls Štybar Sr. in memory.
A year later, he headed for his first foreign engagement. His steps led him to coach Schumacher in Switzerland, where he stayed for two years. He then spent another season in Italy. At the age of twenty, he won his first title as an adult at the Czech Championships in Mladá Boleslav. "Within an hour, Hans van Kasteren, the manager of the Fidea team, called him and immediately recruited him. And since then, he has stayed in Belgium, among the best cyclocross riders in the world," Štybar Sr. added.
However, there were minor problems in school. Due to elite sports, Štybar Jr. had to interrupt his eight-year grammar school after four years when he didn't get approval for individual study. Therefore, he transferred to a public school in Stříbro. "For an exam, he flew a thousand kilometers from Italy. In the end, he got an A in Czech, and then he flew away again," recalls Štybar Sr., adding with a smile, "Of course, he wasn't prepared. But he had a great advantage—when he read something, he remembered it right away."
The three-time world cyclocross champion has always been known for his positive approach to training. Few could endure his training doses. "When he had to ride two hundred kilometres, he added another fifty. That's why coaches often restrained him in training. After a demanding season, he was supposed to have time off, but without a bike, he lasted only two or three days. Then he had withdrawal symptoms," revealed his father.
Štybar Sr. experienced every race of his son. "At the beginning, everything depended on me. Later, other mechanics also helped us. Before the race, I didn't sleep all night to prepare everything. For example, after the race in Holé Vrchy, it was freezing, and I had to wash the bike in lukewarm water. Then we got in the car and off a thousand kilometres to Belgium. I was quite frozen, and in the heated car, fatigue immediately hit me. I remember biting my lips to stay awake at the wheel," he confessed.
Štybar met his future wife in Essen, Belgium. "Ine worked in a local hair salon, and Zdeněk went there once to get a haircut. But his visits became more and more frequent until there was nothing left to cut," his father laughs.
Their relationship soon resulted in the birth of their son, Lewis. "When he was born, we were the first in the hospital. Since it's not common to breastfeed a child in Belgium, Ine was quite an interesting attraction for the staff," recalls Zdeněk's grandfather.
Mother Hana takes care to ensure that Zdeněk eats well and has perfect service. Whenever he comes home to his parents, she only cooks and serves delicacies. "Zdeněk loves strawberry dumplings. With his niece Amálka, they compete every time to see who can eat more. He also enjoys potato pancakes. But he doesn't miss his mom's kitchen in Belgium; Ine can cook well and, most importantly, healthily," praised Štybar Sr.
Over the years, there has been no time in the Štybar family for big celebrations or hobbies. "After some health troubles in recent years, Zdeněk bought fishing rods. He has even caught something in our pond," his father revealed.
On Sunday, Zdeněk Štybar's rich sports career will come to an end. It will be missed not only by fans but also by members of the closest family. "I will be sad. But what can I do, time flies. I'll retire, everything will calm down. Looking back, it was a chaotic thirty-one years. Always in the car, thousands of kilometres with suitcases and bikes. But it was worth it!" concluded Štybar Sr.