Betancur's extended Colombian stay puts Tour de France debut in doubt

Carlos Betancur’s participation in the Tour de France is in doubt as the Ag2r-La Mondiale rider failed to return to Europe as planned last week following an extended stay in Colombia.

Betancur last raced at Flèche Wallonne in April and returned to Colombia after skipping Liège-Bastogne-Liège because of bronchitis. The 24-year-old was due to return to France on June 3 and his Ag2r-La Mondiale team had made plans for him to renew his working visa in Chambéry two days later.

A member of the team's staff was duly delegated to collect Betancur from Lyon airport on June 3 but the rider never showed up. When contacted by directeur sportif Laurent Biondi, Betancur reportedly said that he was tired and would not line up at the Tour de Suisse (June 14-22) as originally planned.

Ag2r-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu noted that efforts to make further contact with Betancur had failed. “Even his trainer Michele Bartoli hasn’t been able to contact him,” he told La Provence on Monday. Speaking to AFP at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Lavenu admitted that Betancur’s chances of making his Tour de France debut have been significantly reduced.

“Today, we can say that his participation is very uncertain,” Lavenu said. “He’s an incredible talent but he’s very difficult to manage. I’m convinced that he has the qualities to win a Grand Tour but it’s complicated. He needs to get back on track if he wants to have a great career.”

Betancur’s season to date has been a striking mix of highs and lows. In spite of early struggles with his weight, he won Paris-Nice and the Tour du Haut Var, but then abandoned both the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country in quick succession before a low-key Ardennes campaign.

Contacted by Cyclingnews on Tuesday morning, Betancur’s agent Giuseppe Acquadro declined to comment on the matter but said that the rider would release an explanatory statement later in the day.

Like many Colombian riders on WorldTour and Pro Continental teams, Betancur intersperses blocks of racing in Europe with long spells at home in South America. After finishing fifth at the Giro d’Italia last season, for instance, Betancur opted to return to Colombia and he remained there until just before the Vuelta a España, in spite of his team’s wishes that he ride the Vuelta a Burgos as preparation.

“He really needs to get back to his family but when he’s over there, it’s hard to get him to come back,” Lavenu told L’Équipe.




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