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Bettiol had two teammates in the breakaway up the road in Neilson Powless and Magnus Cort but was seen putting in a surge of pace on the pavé inside the final 30 kilometers that saw the gap to the break quickly reduce. Defending champion Pogačar, was glued to his wheel while Jumbo-Visma, including yellow jersey Wout van Aert, had been distanced after a series of mishaps for their leaders.
The Italian rider said he was trying to break up the group with his brief attack and he had made a mistake, adding that he had apologized to Powless, who had come within 13 seconds of taking the yellow jersey.
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“I work for EF Education First, I have the contract, I just tried one time to try to split the peloton where I was. In the end, I made a mistake, and I said sorry to Neilson,” Bettiol said at the start of stage 6 in Binche.
“I was feeling really good, and I actually didn’t know that Neilson was contesting the yellow jersey. Anyway, I was feeling strong, I just gave it one go to try and destroy the peloton, and then I have the opportunity not to pull because I have Neilson and Magnus in the front. In the end, it doesn’t affect a lot the GC race and Neilson was still in the front.”
Former rider turned TV commentator, Robbie McEwen had stoked the flames of speculation about Bettiol’s intentions when he attacked, questioning if the Italian was making a move to UAE Team Emirates for 2022.
“Now McEwan is not a rider, he’s a journalist, it’s part of his game,” Bettiol said.
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters also spoke to the media at the start, saying that there were no hard feelings within the squad after Bettiol’s move. The team had a lengthy debrief following the stage where Bettiol cleared the air with his teammates.
Vaughters told reporters that Bettiol had gotten excited after finding himself in good form on the cobbles following seasons impacted by ill-health.
“Very bluntly speaking, Alberto won the most prestigious one-day race in the world a few years ago and he’s had to deal with some incredibly difficult health issues since then, some health issues that since then, some health issues that for a lot of people would have ended their careers,” Vaughters said.
“He hasn’t been really at the front of a race for a while, he hasn’t had really good legs for a long time and he just got into a situation where he was overly excited and forget himself a little bit. He will own it, and he will say he made a mistake. He will own that and he apologized and said to his teammates that he got a bit excited. It’s really that simple, there are not as many conspiracy theories that people like to make.”
As he had already said to VeloNews, Vaughters denied that Bettiol’s attack had cost Powless a chance at the yellow jersey. The American is still within touching distance of the leader’s jersey and Bettiol believes that there’s still a chance for him to take it before the week is out.
“Today, and especially tomorrow, is an opportunity for us to get the yellow jersey. It depends on how the race goes. We have a plan, and we will stick with the plan,” Bettiol said.
“It’s not only on us and it’s on the others. If Jumbo wants to control or not, this we don’t know. Anyway, until stage 6, EF is doing a good Tour, and don’t forget Rigoberto Urán, who has only two and a half minutes in such a shit week for him. In the end, everything in the team is good.”