Resurgent Alberto Bettiol gives EF Education-EasyPost a boost to pre-classics

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ALÈS, France (VN) — Watching Alberto Bettiol’s performance during last week’s five-day Étoile de Bessèges, where he finished second overall behind Benjamin Thomas of Cofidis, it was hard to believe that it had been more than six months since the 2019 Tour de Flanders champion’s last competitive appearance in the Tokyo Olympics time trial.

Struck last summer by a recurrence of ulcerative colitis which had affected him the previous winter, the Italian chose to end his 2021 season prematurely to receive long-term treatment for the disease and rest.

Coming to Bessèges last week, his training had gone well, but he didn’t expect to be as competitive as he was. Ranked in the top 10 over the five days, he repeated his 2020 performance in the French stage race by taking second place, 16 seconds behind Frenchman Thomas.

Read also : EF Pro Cycling becomes EF Education – EasyPost

“At the start of the week, I absolutely did not expect to finish on the podium here. I came to Bessèges to improve my condition, push myself and do miles on my legs, and there was no pressure from the team. Everything came day by day, and I found myself in second place. I’m leaving with more confidence in my legs, in my condition, and once again, I’m really happy, especially for my health, ”explained Bettiol while waiting for the final protocol ceremony in Alès.

“A few months ago I was in the hospital and the first goal was of course to get healthy, and only then to think about the results. I arrived here with good preparation but I’m not ready to go yet. 100% But it’s only February and I still have a month to improve and be ready for March and the classics.

The 28-year-old Italian was also delighted with how EF Education-EasyPost performed throughout the week. In their newly designed kit combining pink jerseys and green shorts that make them so easy to spot in the peloton, it was clear to see how important Team USA was at key moments in the race.

“My team was really amazing [last] the week. We were certainly the most compact and strongest team, and this second place is more than 50% due to them,” said Bettiol. “Actually, I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a big result for them, but like everyone in the team, I did the best I could so I’m happy.”

EF Education-EasyPost has assembled what is arguably their strongest roster of one-day runners, including Bettiol, Magnus Cort, Michael Valgren, Sebastian Langeveld and new recruits Owain Doull and Łukasz Wiśniowski.

“It gives me a good idea of ​​the classics, especially since we have even more riders coming for these races,” said Bettiol. BikeNews. “But it was also good that the new guys like Owain and Łukasz had the chance to get used to working with us. We come out of Bessèges with very good feelings.

Welshman Doull said BikeNews he was very happy with how the race had gone for his new team, but confessed it hadn’t been a perfect start for him, although he added there was a good reason to that.

“I just miss it a little. I had a good winter, but the goal was always to try to be at my best for the big races,” said Doull, who left the Ineos Grenadiers over the winter.

“I think sometimes I started the year a little too hot and then got a little bit dipped as the main classics came along. I always started the ‘opening weekend’ in a good place and I never really started from there, so this year I’m aiming for a more gradual build up and being better at the main classics.

Like Bettiol, Doull saw the strength and cohesion of EF Education as a significant advantage they could derive from Bessèges.

“As a group we can take a lot of confidence from this race,” he said. “In all areas, everyone has been strong but also smart. It’s like everyone is on a similar wavelength. We don’t talk too much, but everyone knows what they’re doing when they have to. engage and when to be smart.

The Welshman sees the team’s greatest strength in depth as his main attribute heading into the Spring Classics.

“When I arrived they said there was no real hierarchy – if you’re good you’re good. We don’t race in that style of protecting a driver. Obviously here with Alberto in good form and up there on the GC it was smart to do it. But in the days you have to be more flexible and adaptable,” Doull explained.

“There are a lot of guys with a lot of pedigree at all levels. Everyone has their own results and been up there in those one day races. Obviously, with Alberto as a former Flanders winner and guys like Valgren as well, we’re going to have a lot of depth for these big races and also a lot of experience.

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