Having made the breakaway on two previous occasions, it was almost third time lucky for Carlos Betancur on stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia as he finished runner up behind Ilnur Zakarin. In 2013, Betancur was runner up behind another Russian Katusha rider, Maxim Belkov, in Firenze but the Colombian, knowing there was a rider up the road this time, did not celebrate second place.
Having started as Ag2r-La Mondiale's 'wilcard' for the Giro, Betancur has slowly been riding himself back into the form which saw him win two stages and the overall at last year's Paris-Nice. In 2015, Betancur has been well below his level, taking 47 race days to record a top-ten finish on stage 9 of the Giro having featured in the breakaway.
Since the withdrawal of the team's GC rider Domenico Pozzovivo due to a nasty crash, Betancur has risen to the challenge of taking on more responsibility for results and now has two top-ten's in two days.
"For a long time, I have dreamed about being competitive again and now it's a reality," said Betancur who became a father for the first time earlier this year. "Being on the bike, this is what I love and I am beginning to have fun. I went through some tough times recently but I could count on the support of my family and also my team, AG2R La Mondiale."
Having been one of several riders to crash on the wet stage which finished on the F1 track in Imola, Betancur explained the fall did not derail his ambition for his first win since Paris-Nice.
"I worked hard to get here. I crashed, it's part of the race," Betancur said."Today, despite that, I had the mind to be in front. Obviously I thought of victory, but it's difficult in this Giro and Zakarin was very strong."
Maximum points on the Valico del Prugno and third up the Tre Monti, sees Betancur occupy fourth on the mountains classification and the 25-year-old is now dreaming of becoming the fifth Colombian to win the blue jersey, emulating the 2014 feat of Julián Arredondo (Trek).
"The mountains jersey? Many of us to want it but with the help of God I could do it. Now I know one thing: good things will happen to me," Betancur said.
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