EF Education First Pro Cycling’s Alberto Bettiol claimed his first professional victory at this year’s Tour of Flanders in Oudenaarde today.
“I still don’t believe what I did. My first win, I don’t believe it,” said Bettiol.
The 25-year-old Italian finished the 267km course in 6:19:00, beating Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) into second and third respectively.
An early break formed just 3km in and consisted of Kenneth van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Hugo Houle (Astana Pro Team), Damien Touze (Cofidis Solutions Credits) and Jesper Asselam (Roompot-Charles).
Their gap to the peloton grew to 8’30” as the quartet reached Herzele, ahead of the 1.3km-long Lippenhovestraat cobbled section.
When the break hit the 1 500m Paddestraat section there was a crash in the peloton and defending champion Niki Terpstra (Direct Énergie) went down heavily and needed medical treatment. He was then forced to abandon the tour.
When the break hit Oude Kwaremont, which is 2 200m long with an average gradient of 4% and a maximum of 11.6%, Houle went clear alone.
The gap to the break was 5’45” when the cobbles ended with 147km remaining as the riders headed for the short but steep Kortekeer climb.
The breakaway riders reached the top of the Leberg climb with 122km to the finish and led by 5’25”.
When the quartet hit the Berendries climb, their lead came down to 4’38”.
An attack in the peloton drew out several riders, which created a 15-second gap back to the rest of the bunch.
The breakaway riders then hit Tenbosse, which was the seventh climb of the day, with a lead of 3’05”.
The small chasing group was then caught by the peloton with 109km remaining.
The break was 1’30” ahead of the peloton as they reached the Muur-Kapelmuur. A clear split formed in the peloton, which forced the others to chase.
There were various attacks in this front group, which was a minute clear of the peloton as riders made their way to the final climbs in the last 50km.
When they hit the Kanarieberg climb Matej Mohorič (Bahrain–Merida) was off the front as the front group was caught by the peloton.
With 60km left Van der Poel had a flat, waved for service and then crashed over the bars after hitting a pot-hole. Shortly afterwards he was back chasing before Kwaremont.
At this point Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First Pro Cycling) and Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale) led as they hit Paterberg. They were then joined by Asgreen and led by 15 seconds with 48km left. Van der Poel was 30 seconds further back.
As they hit the 2 000m-long Mariaborrestraat cobbles, the leading four were ahead by 20 seconds.
When the riders passed through Ronse, the break extended their lead to 30 seconds with 30km to go.
With 25km to the finish, only Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky) and Asgreen remained up front with a 15-second gap.
Vanmarcke led onto the Oude Kwaremont with 19km to go, with Van Avermaet leading the chase.
Bettiol then closed the gap on Van Baarle. With 17km to go he led solo by 10 seconds as he made his way to the Paterberg.
Van Avermaet and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) led the chase.
With 7km to the finish, Bettiol’s gap grew to 25 seconds. He managed to keep this gap and soloed to the finish, taking this year’s Tour of Flanders title.