Zdeněk Štybar Reflects on Career as He Nears Final Race at Tour of Guangxi

Facing challenges, Štybar recounts his recent career hurdles

by Zain ul Abedin
Zdeněk Štybar Reflects on Career as He Nears Final Race at Tour of Guangxi
© Bryn Lennon/Getty Images Sport

In an unexpected twist, Zdeněk Štybar, a seasoned cyclist with a storied career, is set to bid farewell to professional road racing at the Tour of Guangxi, far from his homeland. The transition from cyclo-cross world titles to chasing Classics victories over a decade ago was seamless for Štybar. Yet, the end seems to be approaching without the grandeur many would have expected.

Speaking to Cyclingnews in Beihai, Štybar expressed, “It's challenging to conclude one's career in China, distant from loved ones. However, I'm here to race and fulfill my duties. While I'm considering some cyclo-cross races this winter, this might be my curtain call on the road.”

Štybar's journey began in Belgium, where his affable nature and prowess quickly made him a favorite, even against homegrown talents. His association with the QuickStep team, backed by compatriot Zdeněk Bakala since 2011, further solidified his place in the sport.

Despite recent years marred by injuries and health issues, Štybar's optimism never waned. His tenure with Jayco-Alula was punctuated by a double iliac artery surgery. And with Jayco finalizing their 2024 roster with Caleb Ewan, Štybar's prospects seemed bleak, especially amidst the chaos of a potential merger between his former QuickStep team and Jumbo-Visma.

Reflecting on his situation, Štybar lamented, “The recent uncertainties surrounding teams have made this likely my last race. My manager did reach out, but given my health history and age, there's limited interest.”

Štybar's Health Setbacks

Štybar's last triumphant moment was at the 2020 Vuelta a San Juan. However, the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic and his personal health battles, including cardiac arrhythmia surgery and multiple COVID infections, hindered his momentum. The discovery of his iliac artery endofibrosis, which required surgery, was a revelation but also a setback.

He recalled, “Post-surgery, I felt like I was racing on one leg. It's frustrating, thinking why we didn't identify the issue sooner. But with my heart operation and recurring COVID infections, there were always reasons for my performance dips.”

In 2022, despite training diligently, Štybar struggled in races. The diagnosis provided clarity, but also a tough decision. “I didn't want to end on such a note, so I underwent the surgery,” he shared.

While he contemplates some cyclo-cross races, a full-time return seems unlikely. Štybar's illustrious career boasts victories at Strade Bianche, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and E3 Harelbeke. Yet, when asked about his career's pinnacle, he cherishes the camaraderie at QuickStep.

Štybar concluded, “The bond and memories with my team are irreplaceable. Those moments are etched in my heart forever.”