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A through back to the 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen with Alberto

 

Alberto Bettiol is the last Italian who won the Ronde van Vlaanderen after fellow riders such as Andrea Tafi, Moreno Argentin, and Fiorenzo Magni – the iconic Lion of Flanders.

In 2019 he gave all Italians – including us from Sidi – the gift of experiencing a historic and unforgettable day. To see one of our riders raising his arms against the sunset in Oudenaarde reminded us why we have been crazy in love with cycling for sixty years. Today, a year later, in an unexpectedly surreal situation, Bettiol is still the defending champion and we have asked him to tell us something about that day. 

Now that we are in lockdown, it is so strange to think about hugging. But if I go back a year ago with my mind, the first thing I did, after crossing the finish line, was to hug my soigneur who had been with me for two weeks in Belgium. As many people know, the massage sessions are not only a matter of physical but also mental relaxation. I had vented my feelings and confided all my concerns to him, day in day out. 

Then, I also hugged all my teammates one by one. I wanted to do it because I knew how much they had done. Without them, I don’t know whether I would win. Waiting for them – happy, perspiring and exhausted after the win – was my greatest thank you, I think. To have a united and strong team is essential to win a Northern Classic, but you also need to be in a great form and to be able to ride your bike very well. You must dare to anticipate the top riders fearlessly, you must know “to die” on your bike. And yet, the most important thing is that you must be in a ‘day of grace’. By this I mean, that often being in good form and having a perfect team is not enough to win such a beautiful, long and complicated race. A number of perfectly aligned conditions need to be met, like a karmic coincidence. It is a day where everything needs to fall back in place.

AndreaBettiol_2019

The Tour of Flanders is a deeply engaging race, full of iconic places. First of all, one always thinks of the Kwaremont and the Geraardsbergen Muur– the Grammont climb – but I am convinced that the nicest one is the Koppenberg. It is a super tough ascent, the toughest of all. I never look forward as I am climbing it and rather keep my eyes fixed on the pavé: I wouldn’t be able to make it otherwise. The Koppenberg is a highlight because it is the crucial place of the route – whoever lags behind is lost. It is not there that it becomes clear who the race winner will be, but who won’t be. 

These days, the so called Holy Week of cycling would kick off. And it isn’t easy to stay at home thinking about the Classics that have been cancelled. But it is a time when we all need to be reasonable. There is a Florentine saying: “Better to be scared than getting slapped”.  Metaphorically, we could turn it into: Better to be scared of this virus than having to suffer its consequences later. Let’s keep on following the rules, being cautious as needed, and we’ll make it!


©BettiniPhoto


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