Carlos Betancur could be headed for a surprise mid-season transfer to UAE Team Emirates, according to a report in Gazzetta dello Sport. The Italian sports daily says that the Colombian, who currently rides for Movistar, could switch to the squad as soon as the transfer window is open on August 1. His agent has told Cyclingnews that 'all possibilities are open' and that talks are ongoing.
Betancur finished 15th overall at the recent Giro d’Italia, and it is suggested that he could be put to service immediately for UAE Team Emirates and ride the Vuelta a Espana for the squad at the end of August. If the move was to happen, Betancur would join Fabio Aru and Dan Martin as Grand Tour riders.
A mid-season move would be surprising, not least because Betancur is contracted to the Spanish squad until the end of 2019 after extending at the end of last season. They are not unheard of, however. Rohan Dennis’ switch to BMC Racing came in August 2014 and he too was drafted immediately into their Vuelta a Espana line-up. Alessandro Petacchi also made a mid-year move to Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, though strictly speaking, he’d retired earlier in the year only to make a comeback with the Belgian squad.
Betancur has had an up and down career since turning pro with Acqua e Sapone in 2011. The 28-year-old spent two seasons with the team before stepping up to WorldTour level with AG2R La Mondiale in 2013. He enjoyed a strong start to his tenure with the French outfit claiming a podium place at Fleche Wallonne and fourth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, before going onto take a best-ever finish at the Giro d’Italia with fifth overall.
The second half of the season did not bring much reward but a win at Paris-Nice in 2014 seemed to get things back on track. However, his relationship with the team began to deteriorate as he struggled with homesickness and weight issues. He had been penned to ride the 2014 Tour de France but did not return to Europe, claiming a viral infection, before eventually riding the Vuelta a Espana. The following year he ended his season at the Giro d’Italia, after failing to return to Europe for the Tour de Pologne. It was announced soon after that his contract with AG2R La Mondiale would be ended a year early.
Despite his troubles, Eusebio Unzue showed faith in him and signed him up to Movistar for the 2016 season. In the Spanish squad, he has been relied on as a domestique but the Giro was an opportunity for him to lead. Though Richard Carapaz ultimately ended up the team’s protected rider, Betancur held on to take 15th overall.
UAE Team Emirates endured a difficult Giro d’Italia with Fabio Aru struggling for form before eventually abandoning midway through stage 18, citing illness. It’s not yet clear if the Italian will ride the Tour alongside Martin and sprinter Alexander Kristoff or if he will head to the Vuelta a Espana.