Half a yr longer than anticipated, Alberto Bettiol (EF Professional Biking) was the defending champion of the Tour of Flanders. The 26-year-old Italian rider entered the 2020 version figuring out that it will be troublesome to repeat final yr’s great achievement. He got here up with a great struggle, however in the long run, he needed to bow for biking’s stars Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe.
“It’s a fucking arduous race, this one. The Ronde is gorgeous however so arduous. It’s so troublesome to remain in entrance. I feel I labored as arduous as I may. I used to be once more within the finale of this race. Additionally, final weekend [Gent-Wevelgem] I used to be in entrance. I didn’t have the identical legs as final yr. I feel one of the best man received the race,” Bettiol stated within the post-race combined zone in Oudenaarde.
“We had two guys within the chasing group. I arrived on the end line with out vitality so I left all the things on the market. I’m not completely satisfied however I’ve no regrets; there wasn’t extra that I may do.”
In his rationalization, it confirmed that Bettiol needed to show that final yr’s victory wasn’t a fluke.
“Earlier than the beginning of the race, I wasn’t thought of a favorite as a result of I’m not the king of cyclo-cross, don’t have a Belgian id and no rainbow jersey. That’s why these guys have been slightly bit stronger,” Bettiol stated, hinting at a scarcity of respect for final yr’s winner coming into this version.
“This can be a unusual season,” Bettiol stated, referring to the worldwide menace of the COVID-19 coronavirus that led to EF Professional Biking’s choice to solely participate within the WorldTour calendar. Due to that call, their riders didn’t have the racing rhythm within the legs in comparison with many different riders at first in Antwerp on Sunday. He additionally felt that some riders have been preventing for positions who usually decide to go all-in at different races.
“This yr it was extra harmful as a result of for a lot of riders the place this was the one alternative to point out their energy, like pro-conti riders [UCI ProTeams] or riders and not using a contract for subsequent yr. Lots of guys went deep at the moment. That made it tougher than in April. Then once more, you solely want good legs.”
Regardless of the dearth of racing rhythm, Bettiol was on the verge of being with the three high weapons that escaped the stays of the peloton after the Koppenberg. Alaphilippe accelerated away on the high of the steep cobbled climb. Bettiol bounced again and bridged up, along with eventual winner Van der Poel, Van Aert, AG2R duo Romain Bardet and Oliver Naesen, and Arjen Livyns (Bingoal WB).
A number of riders bridged again as much as this star-studded group however after tackling the Steenbeekdries climb the riders have been thundering downhill over the cobbles of the Stationsberg. Alaphilippe went full gasoline and took dangers. Van der Poel marked his wheel with Bettiol, Van Aert and Livyns proper behind them. On the backside of the descent the course rotated and crossed the railway tracks. That’s the place Bettiol misplaced the wheel of Van der Poel and Van Aert dropped his chain. Van Aert shortly recovered however Bettiol then appeared to financial institution on Livyns to do the chasing at first.
“It was a troublesome race. I used to be there on the Koppenberg with Mathieu so I’ve to be completely satisfied. I used to be there with Naesen to chase Alaphilippe down,” Bettiol stated, speaking concerning the passage over the well-known Koppenberg climb. A bit later, the Steenbeekdries climb adopted.
“I noticed Julian velocity up within the downhill of the Steenbeekdries. I used to be behind Mathieu. Within the nook earlier than the railway, I had an issue with the rear wheel that was slippery. I left a small hole of perhaps ten metres. Van Aert got here from behind and did a dash and was in entrance. I couldn’t do something. These guys stayed within the entrance. I attempted to get again on the Taaienberg with one other man and got here again to 5 seconds. They didn’t surrender and naturally QuickStep was not working. Julian, Mathieu and Wout have been stronger. On the climbs, I used to be on the identical degree as these guys. I confirmed that on the Koppenberg. With the race state of affairs, they have been in entrance. We tried to get again. If Julian would’ve stayed with them they’d arrive with a bonus of three minutes.”
Alaphilippe didn’t keep within the entrance group, nonetheless, as he crashed out when driving into a motorcycle that was slowing down.
“I used to be shocked to see him on the bottom,” Bettiol stated. “He usually reveals unusual strikes on the bike. I don’t know what occurred. It’s a pity for him, and likewise for the organisation. It could be good to see the rainbow jersey within the entrance. It’s such a troublesome race. To remain centered for thus many hours is troublesome. Yearly it’s a problem.”
On Wednesday, Bettiol is scheduled to race within the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne however he defined that he wasn’t positive what races would observe up after the Ronde. “I’ve to determine tomorrow. For positive not the Vuelta.”