EF Education-Nippo announced a contract extension for former Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol on Tuesday, saying the Italian has "signed a contract to stay with the team for seasons to come" but not specifying the length of the deal.
Bettiol began his professional career with the Cannondale team in 2014 before it was folded into the Slipstream organisation and remained with Jonathan Vaughters' team through 2017 when he moved to BMC for one season amid the uncertainty of the team's future.
He returned to the fold in 2019 and made his first professional victory a major one, winning Tour of Flanders with a long-range solo attack. This season, Bettiol won stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia to Stradella, attacking the day's breakaway several times before finally forging clear on the final climb.
The triumph came after a difficult winter, after the death of his former agent Mauro Battaglin, with whom he was very close, and a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis that cut two months off of his preparation for the season.
He came into the Classics under form, caught a cold and was not at his best for Tour of Flanders, but showed his mindset by vowing to "get on with it, suffer, suffer, fight, fight and show my grinta" and looking on the bright side in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Other people have caught COVID-19 and suffered so much more than I have in the last year. I've got this problem and have to treat it and then get back to my best form."
Now in the prime of his career at age 27, Bettiol has firm goals in mind.
"I still would like to win more races," he said in a press release. "I want to win more important races, and with my help to win a Grand Tour. I was close to it with Rigo [Uran] three years ago. I think we can do it. I will fight myself to get more victories, but also for the team to get a big Grand Tour win."
After taking the Giro d'Italia stage, Bettiol dedicated the victory to his former agent, Mauro Battaglin, who died last year, and also remembered the victims of the cable car accident at Mottarone mountain which led to the area being removed from the Giro route on stage 19.
"Sometimes, we forget how lucky we are and how thankful we have to be to all the staff with us. And sometimes we forget that it is just a bike race. Especially when you are under pressure, you sometimes see only darkness. If I can help my teammates to laugh and not think about the dark, I am happy to do that," Bettiol said.
"I need to have around me people who trust me, like this team trusts me," he said. "That's why I decided to stay. Our fight, our commitment, our goals are difficult to get, but we can do it together. I need the support of all the team."
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