Sunday , May 9 2021

Weekly spin: One winner, but three monumental rides in the Tour of Flanders

That was his first win win.

Let it sink for a moment. In his sixth professional season, Italian Alberto Bettiol, the winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, has never won a professional race.

It would approach. He finished second at Bretagne Classic 2016, behind Oliver Naesen, fourth in GP Quebec in 2016, and sixth at Clasica San Sebastian in 2017. His best score on the monument was 2017. Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he ended 24, 2:32 behind Philippe Gilbert.

Recently, Bettiol showed a form on Milan-San Remo, launching a late-race Poggio attack that pulled Julian Alaphilippe into action and eventually win, again at E3 BinckBank Classic, where Bettiol finished fourth in the group of five players. .

Still, there is no victory. No stand on the winning stand on a one-day race from August 2016.

On Sunday in Oudenaarde, the 25-year-old rider EF Education First changed all that. Bettiol won a professional race and was great.

Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) has decided to win the last 18 km in 2019. Ronde van Vlaanderen, 270 km race from Antwerp to Oudenaarde.

It all began on the rise of Oude Kwaremont, a long 2.2 km, with the remaining 18 kilometers, where Bettiol jumped from the selected rider group and went clear. He retained his advantage over the last tilted climb, short but steep Paterberg, and then made the effort of his life to keep the group ahead of the race, winning 14 seconds.

"I still can not believe what I did," Bettiol said. – My first win. I still do not believe in that. I felt good at Kwaremont, and [EF Education First director Andreas Klier] he said, 'If you can, just go. I closed my eyes and I just left. I looked back, and I had a good void, and from the car they told me to keep pushing. At Paterberg I did not lose much, and then it was fourteen kilometers long, the longest in my life.

Second place was the 24-year-old Dane Kasper Asgreen, the top-ranked heavyweight Deceuninck-Quick Step squad, who rides in the wind for the last 50 miles, and then jumped out of the pursuit group in the final miles. .

Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), the champion of Flanders in 2015 and the recent winner at Gent-Wevelgem, played third.

Immediately behind Kristoff, and immediately behind the podium, was the Dutch champion Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), whose race was the answer to Bettiol as a story of the race. Van der Poel collapsed heavily with the remaining 60 miles after he hit the front wheel, jumped over the saddle, lost control of the engine while trying to stop.

The world cycling champion and the recent winner at the Dwarsa Vlaanderen took a new bike, spent 14km in search of a return, regained contact on another trip over Kwaremont and soon returned to attacking the field. It was a phenomenal performance for Van der Poel in his debut in Flanders.

It was a race marked by disappointing performances and breakthroughs. Former winner Peter Sagan followed the moves but could not break the top 10. The favorite Zdenek Stybar who was in front of the race fell 30 km. Meanwhile, three young drivers – Asgreen, Van der Poel and Bettiol, the oldest at the age of 25 – left a mark on the Flanders tour. What follows are stories behind their rides.

Ronde van Vlaanderen on the left hand side: Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).


You can be sorry if you have not left the money that Alberto Bettiol will win on the Flanders tour. It's a bit. Although he appeared in the last month, he finished second in the last time at Tirreno-Adriatico, just three seconds behind Victory Campenaerts – Bettiol was not a proven winner. Actually, he was not a winner at all.

Tuscan – who comes from Castelfiorentina, between Florence and Siena in the Chianti area – became a Cannondale professional in 2014 and was one of several drivers who moved to the Cannondale-Garmin team after joining the Italian and American squadron. In 2015, he spent three years in that team before leaving BMC Racing last year, a season that had been injured by injuries; broke the key bone in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and in August again in Bretagne Classic. He returned to the team led by Jonathan Vaughters, from the renamed EF Education First in 2019.

At a press conference after the race, Bettiol was asked whether the mistake he had not mentioned as a favorite before the race.

"I think it's my fault," he said. – I have to be present at the beginning of the race, it's not about you, but about me. It's about my confidence. Many people who have followed me from a child are trying to convince me that I'm a good rider and I have never believed. I never won in the race, why should I win on a Flanders tour? Why would I ever be a favorite? "

In an interview with Spore after the race, Van Avermaet – Bettiol's teammate in BMC Racing last year – expressed surprise that the Italian won. "I know him a bit," he said. "He was a great talent, but a little lazy. Last year was over. Now he may have made that click and he'll do it all [the sport]".

Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) has decided to win the last 18 km in 2019. Ronde van Vlaanderen, 270 km race from Antwerp to Oudenaarde.

However, Bettiol knew what was needed to win Flanders. In an interview for CyclingTips from May 2017, released in March 2018, Bettiol talked about Rondi, one of the races he felt best suited to his features.

"The Flanders tour is a very, very tough race to win, but if you feel good, it's not such a tough race," he said. "It's the simplest race because people are not good at the back of the cobwebs, and if you know where the moment is to go, then you will stay on the front so many miles, because the roads are narrow. made and that's all about your feet. You do not have to do anything, just stay ahead and go. "

And while more or less what happened, almost two years after saying these words, it does not come close to the complete story of Bettiol's victory.

In addition to having "had his legs," he used several factors: impressive teamwork in the late race of Sep Van Brock and Sebastian Langeveld, the rear wind in the last 10km, and beyond, a large group of largely isolated team leaders who were not " they are willing to take over the search.

Van Marcke, who recovered from knee injury on the E3 BinckBank Classic last Friday, drove to support, jumping in the footsteps of Stijn Vandenbergh (Ag2r La Mondiale), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky) ) on another trip over Oude Kwaremont with 56km.

Though he fell down with the leader, Vanmarcke went to the front of the pursuit group on the last trip over Kwaremont, pulling for Bettiola and Sebastian Langeveld.

"I was behind Greco Van Avermaet at Kwaremont, expecting to attack, but never came," Bettiol said. "I heard on the radio that my sports director says that if I have my legs, I do not wait too much, because otherwise guys like Kristoff and Sagan – who are faster than me – could stay with me. Before the straight part of Kwaremont, I was attacked and never returned. I looked at the asphalt after Kwaremont and I did not see anyone. "

With 16-second lead, Bettiol was in the perfect position to be in the first group after Paterberg, but surely there were faster players coming from behind. It was not a winning calculation. But he had Langeveld there, located in front of the pursuit group, slowing things down, and ready to follow all the moves they could take. When Van Avermaet set off for Bettiol following Paterberg, Langeveld was there. When Benoot jumped 8 miles away, Langeveld was on his steering wheel.

"I knew Sebastian was protecting me," Bettiol said. – Sep did a fabulous job. A champion like him worked for us all day. That was just crazy. All the guys, Matti [Breschel], Sacha [Modolo], That [Scully], Taylor [Phinney]All. I think that EF has been on the front all day. We showed that we could win Ronde van Vlaanderen. "

With 5 km to the end and a gap of about 20 seconds, it became clear that there will be no expected battles between Wouta and Aura and Mathieu van der Poel, without a sprint between Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan. For the second year in a row there would not be a Belgian winner.

Instead, the relatively vague Italian winner for his name would emerge as the champion, the youngest winner since Tom Boonen took the first of three Flanders titles in 2005.

"Bettiol was the strongest player on Oude Kwaremont, and he still drove a solo at the top of Paterberg," Benoot said, finishing in ninth place. – The wind at Oudenaard was in his favor. The group that followed her was not slow, but it was difficult to cooperate. And with that, Bettiol could have retained his advantage. I tried to attack, but Langeveld jumped to my wheel. Many riders are on a high level, making it difficult to create some gaps. But if you are yourself like him, it may seem like a surprise, but surely it deserves it.


Find me someone who predicted Kasper Asgreen would finish the Flanders tour on the podium. Just ahead, I'll wait.

Like Bettiol, 24-year-old Dane came to visit Flanders without a win in his name. Like Van der Poel, that was his debut of Flanders.

Unlike Bettiola and Van der Poel, Asgreen was not the leader of the team; he was rather a solid player in the team support that he most liked to win in the race.

Perhaps Asgreen's greatest result came to the ground when he won the European Championship in 2017 on the eve of the European championship in front of Mikkel Bjerga's national team. However, his performances attracted the attention of Quick-Step Team Management, which he signed in April of the Virtu Cycling team in April. Last summer, Asgreen rode to Vuelti and España in support of Spaniard Enrico Masi, who finished second; He was also a member of the Quick-Step Team Winning Team at the Innsbruck World Team Championship Team.

Deceuninck-Quick Step went on a four-legged Flanders tour that is believed to be capable of winning, including the 2017 champion Philippe Gilbert, the last winner of the E3 BinckBank Classic Zdenek Stybara, the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Bob Jungle winner and the double winner Dwars Vlaanderen Yves Lamapert, State Champion of Belgium.

Asgreen, along with Tim Declercq and Illya Keisse, were team-building supporters. They rode on the front to keep the first day of separating the four riders at their fingertips, and then, after the race came together on flat roads between Muur-Kapelmuura and Kanarieberga, Asgreen jumped off the field 50 miles further after a dangerous move by Vanmarcke and Stijna Vandenberg (Ag2r La Mondiale), who later joined Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky).

Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) in front of Michaels Matthew (Sunweba) and Wouta van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen.

These four drivers were the front pole as they approached the final races of the race, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. But they were caught in Kwaremont, where Bettiol made his move, which he eventually conveyed on the line.

"When Bettiol passed me, it was impossible to follow, so I just tried to keep up with the main group," Asgreen said.

By then, however, Quick-Step tactics changed. Gilbert, who had stomach cancer last week, lost contact. Stybar, the fastest teammaker left, fell to Kruisberg for the remaining 27km. Jungels and Lampaert were still in the first group, but none were fast-paced, eliminating, to a large extent, the effectiveness of a long-range solo attack last year that won Niki Terpstrom and Gilbert two years ago.

However, it seemed that Jungels and Lampaert simply did not have what to do; The last ones ended up in that group, at the 16th and 17th place.

In the last few miles, though the victory was unattainable, Asgreen again attacked and kept his emptiness in a straight approach to Oudenaarde, soloing to the second place. In the field of 175 starters, including the world champions and four former Flanders, only one rider was better than Asgreen.

"As we come to an end and I still have something left in my feet," Asgreen said. "I decided to strike and press, seeing that there is light between me and the others. The second is a tremendous result for my career, the one who surprises me, but also a step in the right direction, which feeds my confidence ahead of the next races.


He did not win in the race – or even ended up on a winning stand – but it is possible that more spectators will remember Mathieu van der Poel's performance than the winner.

Van der Poel came to visit Flanders as a great favorite, somewhat unusual since he had never drifted before. But his races on the race were enough to support his chances – he won GP de Denain only by winning before finishing the impressive fourth place in Gent-Wevelgem, his debut at WorldTour, and then winning the race with five riders. at the door of Dwarsa Vlaanderen.

However, Van der Poel's race seemed to be over when he fell 60kms hard, squeezing his shoulder firmly against the ground and shaking with pain. It was just before the first combination of Kwaremont-Paterberg, where Vanmarcke went off the road with Vandenbergh and Asgreen. With the shooting of the adrenaline and the new bicycle under his feet, Van der Poel began to grumble, catching and passing the remains of peloton. After 14 km in pursuit, he returned to Koppenberg with 46 km.

"I wanted to avoid the flower box just before falling, but I jumped into the flower box and immediately broke the point," said Van der Poel Sporzi. "Then I hit a small hole on the sidewalk, my wheel completely broke and I crossed it. It hurts a bit.

"After that I was driving for half an hour to fight back in the race. Only when I got down to Koppenberg I returned to the people. I felt quick to recover. He gave me a lot to have to climb up with the best. "

With regard to lost time and energy consumption, it is quite possible that Van der Poel was the strongest driver in the race. There he was, with 30 km to go, attacking Kruisberg in front of world champion Alejandro Valverde and Olympian Greyhound Van Avemeta. There he was, in perfect position, at Paterberg's final climb, although he told the media gathered outside the buses of his team that he thought he was still racing for victory up to 5 km from the line.

Mathieu Van der Poel (in the middle), between Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Greco van Avermaet (Team CCC) in 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"I thought I came to the top of Paterberga's head," he said. "I did not see that Bettiol left, after which they had to tell me." Kristoff repeatedly shouted for seconds in my ear, but I thought that was the gap we had with hunters, only at that moment I saw a rider in the distance. Quick-Step had several riders, and I know Asgreen is fast, so I thought he would ride after him, but apparently not. "

Van der Poel admitted he was not in perfect position at Kwaremont when Bettiol attacked, saying he thought he would be able to speed up the front when needed, but added that his position cost him a chance to mark the winning move.

"Even with falling, I think I would be able to go with Bettiol if I were more at the head of the group at Oude Kwaremont," Van der Poel said. – I just did not see him. The race would be different, so there's no point in thinking about what would happen. "

Still, fans of the race had only to wonder what that might be – and they will also be questioning in Paris-Roubaix next weekend because Van der Poel does not compete, but has decided to compete at the Amstel Gold Race, the biggest event his country. , in the tricolor of the Dutch national champion before continuing his mountain cycling season in preparation for the 2020 Olympics.

"Now I'm going to the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe stage race to get ready for Brabant Pijl and Amstel," Van der Poel said. – It's also something new. And after that, the adventure is over. "

Perhaps, but for Van der Poel, as well as for Bettiol and Asgreen, it seems like adventures on the rocky hills of Western Flanders only at the beginning.

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