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Betancur's season in doubt after missing Colombian 'sport flight'

Carlos Betancur (Movistar)
Carlos Betancur (Movistar) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

There were 185 passengers due to be aboard the special 'sport flight' from Bogotá, Colombia, to Madrid, Spain, on Sunday, but as the gates to the jetway closed, there was one notable absence: Movistar's Carlos Betancur.

The 30-year-old was due to start at Strade Bianche when the WorldTour resumes on August 1, and follow a mostly Italian programme through to the Giro d'Italia in October. Now his season is in jeopardy as Colombia has extended its international travel ban to August 31.

According to the Zikloland website, the flight waited until the last moment for Betancur to arrive, but he never made the flight, later citing a family emergency. Betancur posted an Instagram story late on Tuesday with a tribute to someone who had passed away.

The sport flight was Colombia's answer to the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 has killed over 7,000 people in Colombia, and its daily case count has continue to rise over the summer. Three of the athletes who were originally meant to be on the flight had no symptoms, but were not allowed to travel after testing positive for the virus.

The country has been closed to international travel since March 23, and Colombia did not make the list of countries that the European Union would allow for non-essential travel. However, Spain has been making exceptions for sports figures, and welcomed the flight on Monday with a mix of Colombian athletes.

The missed flight was bad timing for Betancur, who is at the end of his contract with Movistar. The 2013 winner of the Giro d'Italia's best young rider classification was once a major Grand Tour contender after finishing fifth that year behind Vincenzo Nibali. In 2014, he won Paris-Nice, but by the next year he was embroiled in a contract dispute with AG2R La Mondiale, and ended his agreement with the French team 14 months early. He moved to Movistar in 2016, and has been with the Spanish WorldTour team ever since.

There was a threat of a mid-season transfer to the UAE Team Emirates team in 2018 after he finished 15th at the Giro d'Italia, but that never materialised. Betancur did not race any Grand Tours in 2019, but renewed with the team for 2020. 

He is also due to race Milano-Torino, the Gran Piemonte, Il Lombardia and a trio of one-day races in August, before the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, Tirreno-Adriatico and Flèche Wallonne in September, ahead of the before the Giro d’Italia in October.