The 36-year-old Czech signed off the team’s 76th podium of the season.
For the second time in the space of a week, Zdenek Stybar came incredibly close to his first win of the year. After the peloton brought him back in the last 200 meters of the Tour de Pologne stage ending in Sanok, the 2019 winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke had to settle for second now in a tightly-contested sprint at the 55th Tour of Leuven.
Incorporating many of the roads and climbs where Julian Alaphilippe wrote history last year, when he took his second consecutive victory at the World Championships, the race was animated from the outset, attacks coming thick and fast from those willing to gamble everything on such a move instead of waiting for an elusive bunch gallop.
The first big move however came with three laps to go, where the peloton split over a quick succession of hills. Stan Van Tricht and Zdenek Stybar were the two Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl riders to make the cut, the latter forging clear together with Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal) inside the final 25 kilometers. The duo worked well and in just a couple of kilometers they took their gap up to 20 seconds, while behind Stan kept things together, which allowed the leaders to further increase their advantage.
Going under the flamme rouge arch, Stybar and Campenaerts carried a hefty margin and all that was left was for the duo of them to battle it out in a sprint. Zdenek was the first to hit out, but in the final meters of the race was edged out by Campenaerts, who won by a wheel.
“It’s disappointing because it’s the second time this week that I came close to taking the victory. At the same time, I’m also happy that I could be in this position to fight for a win. This morning the team told me they would pull for me, and this confidence they had in me was a major boost for me. It was a hard race and I gave my best during the day and in the break. In the sprint it was always going to be 50/50, I did everything, but it wasn’t enough. As I said, there is a disappointment, but I am also satisfied with having the form to be up there”, Zdenek explained after the race.
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