EF Pro Cycling’s classics star is taking to the start line in Siena Saturday and looking to do his Italian nation proud. After northern Italy saw the first and fiercest spikes in coronavirus earlier this year, the Italian re-entry of top-tier men’s and women’s racing at Strade Bianche takes on a deeper meaning for Bettiol.
“This restart of the world tour races is also a sign of hope for everyone,” Bettiol told TuttoBici. “Personally, I am very proud because this new season will start from Italy with Strade Bianche, the race of my land.”
With a Tour of Flanders victory and string of solid classics performances on his palmarès, 26-year-old Bettiol is an outside contender for Saturday’s race through the white roads of Tuscany. However, having failed to finish in three of his five appearances, he harbors a love-hate relationship for his local event.
“Of course I would like to be the first to cross the finish line,” Bettiol said. “Strade Bianche is a cursed race for me, it runs in my region and expectations are high.”
Bettiol will head up a strong EF Pro Cycling team in Italy, with Michael Woods, Simon Clarke, and Lawson Craddock also providing options. While Bettiol knows he’s only got long-odds for the win, the heat, dirt, and hills on tap for Saturday means he’s not ruling himself out, saying “it is a particular race and there may be some surprises.”
While Dutch riders such as Mathieu van der Poel and Annemiek van Vleuten are top of many bookies’ betting slips for the two races tomorrow, Bettiol is holding out hopes for an all-Italian party come Saturday night.
“It would be nice to see a double Italian triumph like last year’s Tour of Flanders with me and Marta Bastianelli [who won the women’s race],” he said.
“An Italian victory in both the men’s and women’s races would be a nice dream to achieve. It is Italy that is kicking off this new cycling … all the spotlights will be on us and a double victory, since we have good riders, it would look great. Mine is obviously a hope, and it’s nice to be able to hope. “