Italian riders took the top spots in both the men’s and women’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday, Marta Bastianelli [Virtu Cycling] claiming a rare victory for mothers in the pro peloton in the women’s race, while Alberto Bettiol [EF Education First] was a shock winner in the men’s.
Bastianelli attacked with 13km remaining of the 159km women’s race, taking a select group of riders with her. The 31 year-old eventually outsprinted multiple world champion Annemiek van Vleuten [Mitchelton-Scott] for her third victory of the season.
"I'm really happy about this incredible result, it was a very hard race but I pulled it off," said Bastianelli, who served a drugs ban shortly after winning the world road race title in 2007. Bastianelli later gave birth to a daughter in 2015 before returning to the professional ranks in 2016.
Bettiol’s victory, meanwhile, came out of leftfield. It was not just the biggest of the 25 year-old’s career, it was his first since turning professional in 2014. All eyes at the start of the day had been on cyclocross stars Mathieu van der Poel [Corendon-Circus] and Wout van Aert [Jumbo-Visma].
In the end, though, Bettiol proved strongest, kicking clear on the penultimate climb of the Oude Kwaremont, and holding his advantage over the Paterberg to rode solo to the line as the chasers marked each other behind. Denmark's Kasper Asgreen [Deceuninck - Quick-Step] attacked late on to take second. "I was feeling really good, my team said, 'If you can, just go,' so I closed my eyes and I just went," Bettiol said afterwards.
Sagan, the three-time world champion, finished 11th, admitting afterwards that he was “not 100 per cent like before, like three years ago”, when he won Flanders wearing the rainbow jersey.
Team Sky’s Dylan van Barle finished 18th with Luke Rowe 27th.
Next Sunday sees the riders tackle Paris-Roubaix, the third of the season’s Monuments