It was an emotional end to Zdeněk Štybar successful career that spanned nearly two decades as he said farewell to elite sport among family, friends and fans at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships on home soil in Tábor on Sunday.
Štybar said he shed tears on the last lap of the elite men’s event as he took in the atmosphere and enjoyed the crowds of spectators along the circuit, many of whom came to watch him compete in his final race in the professional and elite ranks.
As he crossed the finish line, he enjoyed a moment with his wife and son before he was swarmed by the photographers and media taking photos and requesting post-race comments.
“A lot of emotions. This was a very special week. Even after Christmas, let’s just say this was a farewell tour,” Štybar said in an interview with HLN after crossing the finish line in 31st place, 7:02 behind the day’s winner, Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands).
“I crashed the last lap… On the one hand, I could enjoy it a little longer, but on the other hand, it was a shame because I just got my second wind and was able to continue. In fact, I was suddenly forced to really enjoy the spectators. That was incredible. I really shed tears on that last lap. Also, here on stage.”
Štybar said that ending his professional career in Tábor was more than a dream come true, not only because the event was held in his country but also because he won the cyclocross world title in Tábor during the 2010 edition. He went on to win world titles again in Sankt-Wendel in 2011 and in Hoogerheide in 2014.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell. My career started and now ends here, with a huge number of people. I have a headache from all the shouting and from all the fans in the stands. That was incredible,” Štybar said. “A moment that I will never forget and for which I am grateful.”
Well-known as one of the cyclocross’ greats, Štybar’s career also spanned the Grand Tours, where he won a stage at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, and the one-day races and Spring Classics, where he won Strade Bianche and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and help his teams to countless other victories.
“Maybe I could have raced for one more year, but I couldn’t imagine a better ending than today. Riders are always busy organising a farewell race… But here, all the Belgians and Czechs were present. I am very grateful for that,” he told Sporza.
Štybar joined Van der Poel on the podium following the elite men’s race, where event organisers paid tribute to his successful career, and he was given an opportunity to take the microphone and speak to the crowds and to thank his family and friends for their support. He also inspired the crowd to shout and cheer- ‘Thank you, Štybar Team’ while his mother, father and family stood on stage.
‘It was very special on stage. I’ve gotten all the cups and medals throughout my career. My parents… It’s just… A lot of people have stood by me in bad moments,” he said. “To be able to experience this here on stage, that’s all I wanted. Thank you.”