Betancur set to end yet another extended absence from racing

by Shane Stokes


One of the most enigmatic, and inconsistent, riders in the modern peloton is set to return to racing once again. Movistar’s Carlos Betancur has awoken from his latest hibernation and looks set to compete in the end of season events in Italy.

According to ciclismointernacional.com, Betancur will don a racing number again in the upcoming Coppa Sabatini, which will be held on September 22nd.

It will mark the end of an almost-four month absence from the peloton. He last competed on stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia on May 27, withdrawing from the race on that day.

The long break in competition is not new for Betancur: the talented, but unfocussed, Colombian has previously gone AWOL on several occasions. Three years ago he finished a superb third in La Flèche Wallonne and fourth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège as a 23 year old, then took fifth overall and the best young rider award in the Giro d’Italia.

However he returned to Colombia and didn’t compete again until August of that year, showing up overweight and undertrained for the Vuelta a España.

He was a distant 126th overall in the general classification there, a pudgy shadow of his former self.

He was overweight again starting 2014, struggling early on in the Tour de San Luis, but bounced back by winning both the Tour du Haut Var and Paris-Nice. The good momentum didn’t last long, with disappointing performances in several spring races being followed by a period when his Ag2r La Mondiale team couldn’t contact him and when he missed several flights back from Colombia.

As a result he missed what was scheduled to be his first participation in the Tour de France. He finally reappeared for the Vuelta a Burgos and then rode the Vuelta a España, but was anonymous in both races.

Unsurprising the chain of events led to tension with Ag2r La Mondiale, but it said it would give him one more chance to show his worth. Unfortunately his inconsistency continued, with second on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia and three other top ten stage finishes the highlight of an otherwise forgettable year.

Being a non-starter in the Tour de Pologne and failing to compete again in 2015 sealed the end of his time with Ag2r la Mondiale. Betancur sought to blame the French team for his mediocrity, saying he would prove a point this season with Movistar, but it has been a case of more of the same.

Betancur turned up overweight at the team training camp, and was then a non-finisher in his first four races. He managed to get into decent shape for the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, winning a stage, and also took a stage in the Vuelta Asturias. However his Giro was underwhelming and his withdrawal from the race was the last time he competed.

The 26 year old is a rider with strong results to his credit: his previous achievements in races such as the 2013 Giro d’Italia and the 2014 Paris-Nice show what he can do, as does his silver medal in the 2009 world under 23 championships.

However those good performances are outweighed by his lacklustre periods and Movistar will want to see results in the upcoming Italian races. He has ridden well there in the past, winning the Giro dell’Emilia in 2011, netting fifth in both Milan-Turin and Gran Piemonte in 2012 and also finishing ninth in the 2011 Il Lombardia.

Returning to that sort of form will be what the team wants to see: what remains to be determined is if he has used his long period away from competition to build the necessary form, or if this will be another false restart.

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