Alberto Bettiol has said he will have ‘no excuses’ if he fails to score victories this spring after he enjoyed an unhindered off-season. The Italian finished his 2021 season early due to chronic ulcerative colitis, a condition that had already ruined his Classics campaign, but he has since been able to enjoy a full winter of training.
“I feel as if I were reborn, even if I’m a bit fed up of just training. I must confess that I really miss the adrenaline of competition,” Bettiol told La Gazzetta dello Sport (opens in new tab).
Bettiol has won just three races in his eight-year career, a figure that is undeniably low for a rider of his gifts. The of the triumphs – namely the 2019 Tour of Flanders and a solo win on the 2021 Giro d’Italia – is not in doubt, but the EF Education-EasyPost rider acknowledged that the quantity was lower than it ought to be.
“Definitely, yes. First of all, I have to win more and now there are no excuses because I’ve had an excellent winter and I’ve recovered physically,” Bettiol said. “The only early unknown is my spell of inactivity.”
Bettiol will start his 2022 season at Étoile de Bessèges, the site of his other pro win, when he landed the final time trial two years ago. After a spell of altitude training in Tenerife, he will race the Gran Camiño, the new stage race in Galicia, and then line out at Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo before travelling north to Belgium.
Bettiol’s surprise win at the 2019 Tour of Flanders was his first as a professional and it opened a new phase in his career, even if he struggled to live up to his new status at first.
“When I won Flanders, it changed my life. I wasn’t ready, nobody was riding. Living with that new status was tough,” Bettiol said. “I was just getting used to it when the pandemic started and then my manager Mauro Battaglini died. There was a lot of uncertainty, and then there was this physical issue.”
Bettiol was first diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis in the winter of 2020 and though initial treatment allowed him to race the 2021 Classics and ride impressively on the Giro, he struggled again in the aftermath of the Tokyo Olympics. He is optimistic, however, that his treatment last Autumn in Turin has helped him to manage the issue.
“It will still have to be kept under control and maybe it won’t disappear for good, but I feel good now,” he said. “It was right not to race after the Olympics last year when I couldn’t even train.”
A fully-fit Bettiol would be a contender for victory in one-day races all across the spring, and he expressed confidence that he could compete with Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe in March and April.
“The one I like the most is Van Aert, his versatility is sensational,” Bettiol said. “That said, when I won the Tour of Flanders, I beat all the best riders. When I’m feeling good, I don’t have any inferiority complex, if that’s what we want to call it. I can at least fight for the win, I don’t consider myself that far away. I can’t wait to test myself against them.”
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