Zdeněk Štybar disappointed not to end long drought at Tour of Poland

Czech rider reeled in less than 200 meters from finish of stage 4.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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Zdeněk Štybar (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) went agonizingly close to ending the longest drought of his career on Tuesday, launching an impressive attack just over three kilometers from the stage 4 finish at the Tour of Poland.

The Czech rider last won a race when he took a stage in the 2020 Vuelta a San Juan Internacional. Had he triumphed on stage 4 it would have been his first victory in two and a half years.

However, while he had a solid lead racing into the final kilometer, an uphill rise destroyed his momentum. This enabled a hard-chasing UAE Team Emirates squad to reel him in less than 200 meters from the finish and set Pascal Ackermann up for the win.

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“It was a quite spontaneous attack,” Štybar said. “I looked at the final kilometers this morning, so I knew what to expect and I just played it all or nothing, also aware of the fact that I could put some seconds into the peloton on the many turns. But on the big roads in the last kilometers there was some headwind and I lost time there.

“I am disappointed, because the victory was close, but on the other hand I had fun and I am happy I could be there after the health problems I had. I am happy to feel good again and take pleasure from the races again.”

The health issues he refers to include a heart arrhythmia he suffered in the past, treated by an operation in April 2021. He also contracted COVID in May of this year and was out of competition for over two months.

He is in the final year of his contract with the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team and, with the team not prepared to offer him a renewal, is racing for the future of his career.

In that light, victory on Tuesday would have been worth far more than prize money and prestige.

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