Alberto Bettiol stuns everyone with solo attack to win Flanders
EF Drapac rider attacked on the final ascent of the Oude-Kwaremont and soloed to the finish with 14 kms to go to take biggest win of his career
Italian Alberto Bettiol stunned the favorites by time trialling to the finish on the Ronde for 14 kms, behind favorites Sagan, Van Avermaet, Van de Poel as hesitated and failed to organize a chase.
Bettiol maintained his gap up the final climb of the Paterberg and time trialled to the final.
Behind Kasper Asgreen crossed the line just ahead of the sprinting pack, with Alexander Kristoff the fastest finishing 3rd.
It's a double victory for Italy at the Tour of Flanders after Marta Bastianelli won the women's race.
"I still can't believe it," Bettiol said. “I still don’t believe what I did. My first win.. I don’t believe it… That was the longest 14km of my life. I think from now you should be looking more at pink at the front."
270 km of Belgian brutality awaited the riders at the 103rd Tour of Flanders. The seventeen tough climbs included the legendary Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg, ridden multiple times. The climbs in isolation wouldn’t trouble the riders, but closely packed together they would be hellish. The roads from Antwerp to Oudenaarde also took in five cobblestone sections to make the racing even tougher.
This is a race like no other, where the action starts from the drop of the flag, and frequent narrow sections and tight turns make it difficult for even the most committed peloton to chase down attacks and breakaways. Knowing the advantage an early attack can bring, a group of four built up a significant lead which topped out at more than eight minutes. However, this didn’t last as the peloton made the most of the better road surfaces to bring them back under control.
With 100km to go, riders set a furious pace on the front, splitting the peloton and creating a smaller group of around thirty riders on the front, the relentless attacking from the second group on the road saw them brought back. As the kilometres progressed, the peloton more closely resembled a long line of riders as opposed to anything more organised, and for many, still with 50km to go, their race was over, but many favorites were still in amongst the contenders while others were being spat out the back.
Tackling the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg combination for the final time it was just the favourites left and while Alberto Bettiol went on the attack with 14km to go, it was clear this group wanted a reduced bunch sprint.
The finish was getting closer, and with each rider knowing any energy expended here was energy they wouldn't have for the sprint, Peter Sagan took to the front to try and bring things back, only to find he didn't have the legs to counter this attack. With the Flamme Rouge behind them, it was too late for the chasers – the solo rider took the win – and with the rest fighting amongst themselves for the remaining places after more than six hours in the saddle.
VIDEO: 2019 Tour of Flanders Highlights
Alexander Kristoff said afterwards: “It could seem that the race was very tactical but, as far as I’m concerned, it was a race that was always run on the limit.
I came to the foot of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg for the last time with very tired legs and I was a bit surprised to see that I was able to stay with the main group, there I realised that they were all very tired. The situation worked better than I could have imagined and I tried to take advantage of it. The result makes me happy, I have a good shape, I have high morale after these races, I can count on a team that is racing well and I hope that these conditions will recur in a week in Paris-Roubaix“.
Peter Sagan said afterwards "It was a hard and exciting Tour of Flanders and it is always a pleasure racing here as the amazing crowds create an incredible atmosphere. I'd like to thank my teammates for their work today. They all gave 100% of themselves to control the race, protect me, keep me clear of trouble and help me save as much energy as I could. I was able to be in the front when it was needed in the final kilometres but I didn't have the legs to counter the attack of Bettiol and challenge in the reduced sprint."
2019 Tour of Flanders Top 10
1 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First
2 Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
4 Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
5 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team