Alberto Bettiol wins Tour of Flanders

'I still don't believe it' says EF Education First rider after solo victory

Alberto Bettiol took a well-deserved solo victory and the first win of his career at the Tour of Flanders, going on the attack on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont, with 17km and then holding off all the big-name chasers.

The EF Education First rider dug deep on the flat final 14km to the finish alone as his rivals hesitated and chased each other, allowing the 25-year-old Tuscan to finish alone. 

Dane Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) stayed clear after launching a late chase to finish 14 second down on Bettiol, with Alexander Kristoff winning the sprint for third place at 17 seconds.

As predicted, the Tour of Flanders was a high-speed tactical race that saw a number of attacks and entertaining racing. 2018 winner Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) crashed out early, while Deceuninck-QuickStep was unable to boss the race as they had done early in the spring. Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) was strong. He crashed at speed after a puncture but fought his way back and managed to finish fourth.  

Incredibly it was Bettiol's first professional victory but it should be remembered he finished third on the uphill finish at Tirreno-Adriatico to Pomerance, was second in the final time trial and then attacked on the Poggio at MIlan-San Remo. He was also fourth at last week's E3 BinckBank Classic.

He had revealed to Cyclingnews how he had rediscovered his mojo after returning to EF Education after a season at BMC. He praised his teammates as he struggled to believed he had won the Tour of Flanders.

"I still can't believe it," Bettiol said. "I still don't believe what I did. My first win… I don't believe it…"

"I don't know how I did it. I felt really good on the Kwaremont and Andreas (Klier) from the car said: 'If you can, just go.' 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.

"I knew Sebastian (Langeveld) was there protecting me. Seb (Vanmarke) did an amazing job too; a champion like him worked for us all day. It was just crazy. All the guys, Matti (Breschel), Sacha (Modolo), Tom (Scully), Taylor (Phinney), everybody. I think EF was in the front all day.

"We showed we can win the Ronde van Vlaanderen. From now on you (people) should look out more for the pink in the front." 

How it unfolded

Massive crowds welcomed the 175 riders at the start line in sunny Antwerp early on Sunday, with riders and fans ready to enjoy the sunny, windless day of racing. 

The long breakaway move kicked off shortly after leaving the Antwerp province, featuring Hugo Houle (Astana), Damien Touzé (Cofidis) and Kenneth van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise). Jesper Asselman (Roompot-Charles) soon bridge up solo thus creating a four-man lead group.

After passing through Sint-Niklaas the four leaders started riding away as the peloton took a mass natural break; a closed railway crossing added another minute to their lead. When passing through Berlare, 2019 official village of the Ronde, the gap climbed to over eight minutes and that was the sign for Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma) to start working in the peloton.

The Oude Kwaremont was the first of 17 climbs at 150km from the finish but shortly before the first of three times over the legendary climb, a low-speed crash took out defending champion Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie). He was later diagnosed with concussion. 

As the riders tackled eight climbs in 50km, the gap to the break came down rapidly to one minute when arriving at the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen. The peloton split into two parts at the Muur, sparking the first moment of panic in the peloton. The high speed meant it was a battle to get back on to the front peloton.

At 92km from the finish, the four leaders were caught back by a star-studded group. In no time, the main peloton was trailing that first group by a minute. Lotto-Soudal, AG2R La Mondiale and Katusha-Alpecin worked to bring the gap back down while Belgian champion Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Matti Breschel (EF Education First), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) briefly rode away in front. No one team, including Deceuninck-QuickStep could control the racing.

Despite several attacks, the CCC Team-led peloton remained together until Berchem, approaching the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Things were about to get a lot more intense. It was here that pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) tried to hop over a traffic island, punctured and then went over the handlebars as he tried to signal he need a new wheel. He held his shoulder and lost a lot of time but refused to throw in the towel.

Belgian riders Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale) and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) rode away from the peloton at the foot of the the 2200 metres long cobbled Oude Kwaremont. By the time they reached the top of the nearby Paterberg, they were joined by Deceuninck-QuickStep's impressive 24-year-old Kasper Asgreen. At 50km from the finish, the three leaders had a lead of 15 seconds on the peloton and 45 seconds on a group with Van der Poel. Vanmarcke had played down his chances after a nasty crash in the E3 BinckBank Classic but played a vital role for EF Education First.

On the Koppenberg, Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky) rode away from the peloton while Van der Poel bridged back up to the tail-end of the stretched out peloton just in time. Van Baarle joined the leaders just before the cobbles of the Mariaborrestraat and the following Steenbeekdries climb. Double Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder (Corendon-Circus) led Van der Poel and the rest of the peloton to the Taaienberg. The race was on a knife edge as the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) waited on the wheels. 

Surprisingly Deceuninck-QuickStep lacked numbers and Philippe Gilbert was distanced. Zdenek Stybar was suffering and only Bob Jungels and Asgreen looked strong.

At 30km from the finish, the three remaining leaders rode towards the long Kruisberg - Hotond climb with a bonus of half a minute on a disorganised peloton, where Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) was forced to make a bike switch.

The Kruisberg is 2.5km and sparked a real selection. Van Baarle upped forcing Vanmarcke and Asgreen to go deep to catch him. Behind Stybar cracked and was distanced as Jungels upped the pace. He set a painful pace but some how Van der Poel was back up front. So too were Sagan, Valverde, van Avermaet and Kristoff.

Vanmarcke was swept up on the lower slopes of the Oude Kwaremont as the chasers closed in on Van Baarle. Sagan showed his nose near the front but was riding a more cautious race, perhaps unsure of his form.

There were 17km to race as the Kwaremont gradient eased and Bettiol used it as a launch pad. He spun his legs on the tough cobbled surface and suddenly opened a gap on the rest. He fearlessly lined them out, even making Sagan suffer, soon blasting past van Baarle.

Jens Keukeleire (Lotto Soudal) lead the chase and van Avermaet was generous too but Bettiol got away.

He went all in on the fast main road, tucked in an aero position as he rode towards the Paterberg, the final climb. There were just 15 quality riders in the chase group but none committed to the chase, giving Bettiol a 30-second gift. Langeveld also didsome superb blocking for his teammate.

Bettiol suffered on the Paterberg but did not crack. It was his rivals who were on their limit. On the 14km to Oudenaarde, he switched to time trial mode but the chase behind was unorganised, with solo attacks disrupting affairs and boosting Bettiol’s chances.

He kept his lead to 20 seconds and in the final five kilometres the others began to think about the podium spots, racing each other, rather than chasing Bettiol – his solo strength was better than their rivalry.

Sagan made one last effort to inspire the chase but the others failed to join him. Bettiol turned into the long finishing straight and began to realise he was about to win the Tour of Flanders. He surged up the barriers but had his celebrations ready. It was his first-ever road race win but celebrated in style, the same style he had shown with his solo attack and solo drive to the finish.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First6:18:49 
2Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:00:14 
3Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates0:00:17 
4Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus  
5Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
6Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb  
7Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
8Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team  
9Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
10Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team  
11Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
12Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
13Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
14Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma  
15Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First  
16Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
17Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
18Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky0:00:24 
19Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo0:01:19 
20Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:58 
21Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott  
22Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team  
23Damien Gaudin (Fra) Direct Energie0:02:15 
24Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:02:18 
25Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First0:02:20 
26Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie  
27Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky  
28Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ  
29John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo  
30Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
31Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
32Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data  
33Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida  
34Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
35Jens Debusschere (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin  
36Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
37Aime De Gendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert  
38Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates  
39Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Wanty-Gobert  
40Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie  
41Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
42Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky  
43Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team  
44Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ  
45Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team  
46Pieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Charles  
47Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
48Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky0:05:47 
49Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:06:09 
50Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First  
51Stijn Devolder (Bel) Corendon-Circus  
52Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data0:06:13 
53Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin0:06:17 
54Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale  
55Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data  
56Boy van Poppel (Ned) Roompot-Charles  
57Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo  
58Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert  
59Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
60Piet Allegaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
61Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) CCC Team  
62Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
63Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain-Merida  
64Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ  
65Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Gobert  
66Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team  
67Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
68Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Movistar Team  
69Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Corendon-Circus  
70Bert De Backer (Bel) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
71Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC Team  
72Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team  
73Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) CCC Team  
74Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe  
75Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott  
76Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky  
77Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Gobert  
78Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates  
79Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:08:32 
80Matti Breschel (Den) EF Education First0:08:46 
81Jimmy Turgis (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
82Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin  
83Owain Doull (GBr) Team Sky  
84Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
85Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team  
86Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
87Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
88Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
89Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie  
90Jaime Castrillo (Spa) Movistar Team  
91Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Corendon-Circus  
92Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
93Senne Leysen (Bel) Roompot-Charles  
94Daniil Fominykh (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
95Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott  
96Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott  
97Anthony Turgis (Fra) Direct Energie  
98Filippo Ganna (Ita) Team Sky  
99Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma  
100Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ  
101Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo  
102Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Dimension Data  
103Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma  
104Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
105Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep0:10:14 
106Damien Touze (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
107Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb  
108Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana Pro Team  
109Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
110Stijn Steels (Bel) Roompot-Charles  
111Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
112Casper Pedersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
113Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
114Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ  
115Juraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
116Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
117Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data  
118Edward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
119Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) CCC Team  
120Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo  
121Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates  
122Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale  
123Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team  
124Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe  
125Lars Bak (Den) Dimension Data0:10:49 
DNFKenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFFrederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFNikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFLasse Norman Hansen (Den) Corendon-Circus  
DNFBrian van Goethem (Ned) Lotto Soudal  
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFZico Waeytens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFRoy Jans (Bel) Corendon-Circus  
DNFDries De Bondt (Bel) Corendon-Circus  
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Roompot-Charles  
DNFPhilippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep  
DNFSjoerd van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot-Charles  
DNFKenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
DNFKris Boeckmans (Bel) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
DNFAdrien Garel (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
DNFJulien Morice (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
DNFJérémy Lecroq (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel  
DNFPim Ligthart (Ned) Direct Energie  
DNFTom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert  
DNFLudwig De Winter (Bel) Wanty-Gobert  
DNFJesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Charles  
DNFTaylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First  
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFNiki Terpstra (Ned) Direct Energie  
DNFZhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFYevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFDanny van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma  
DNFDavide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFRobert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFEdoardo Affini (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFRick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFCees Bol (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFFilippo Fortin (Ita) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFAsbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
DNFChristophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFSacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First  
DNFSøren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
DNFKamil Gradek (Pol) CCC Team  
DNFMads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFKiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFJasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFBagdonas Gediminas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFJulien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFJay Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data  
DNFAndreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFNikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb  

 

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