Bettiol takes surprise win at 2019 Tour of Flanders
EF Education First's Alberto Bettiol took an unexpected, but thoroughly deserved, victory at the 2019 Tour of Flanders, escaping the lead group on the final climb of the Kwaremont and soloing to the win, while the group of favourites behind him were unable to organise a meaningful chase to reel the Italian back in.
Italy hadn't won the Ronde since Alessandro Ballan took the title in 2007, and most people's money would have been on Mitchelton-Scott's Matteo Trentin as the Italian rider most likely to take victory.
Trentin finished a distant 21st, almost two minutes behind Bettiol, while favourites including Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) either marked each other or simply weren't able to chase, and finished in a group 17 seconds down on the winner.
While Bettiol's ride was impressive, cyclo-cross world champion – and Dutch road race champion – Mathieu van der Poel's first-time Flanders ride was hailed for its bravery after the 24-year-old had crashed with 60km to go, seemingly ending his race, only for him to battle his way back up to the front of the race and finish fourth.
Fellow cyclo-cross star and three-time 'cross world champion Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) also rode strongly, but ran out of steam a little at the end, taking 14th place, while fellow first-timers Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
Second-placed Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) impressed after working for his team all day, but when Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar fell out of contention, and Jungels and Yves Lampaert, with Asgreen up in the front group, failed to fire, the young Dane skipped away in the dying couple of kilometres, finishing alone between Bettiol and the rest, who were led home by 2015 Flanders winner Kristoff.
But no one impressed like Bettiol.
"I don't know how I did it," Bettiol said at the finish. "I felt really good on the Kwaremont and [sports director] Andreas Klier, from the car, said, 'If you can, just go,' and so I closed my eyes and went.
"I looked down at the top and had a really good gap. They said, 'Keep pushing, keep pushing.' On the Paterberg I don't think I lost a lot, and then it was the longest 14km of my life."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First||6:18:49|
|2||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:14|
|3||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:17|
|4||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus|
|5||Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin|
|6||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb|
|7||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|8||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team|
|9||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|10||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team|