A rider on the cusp: Alberto Bettiol rides to sixth place at San Sebastian

    While other teams do post-race write-ups for every race, we tend to reserve race reports for podiums, jerseys and other especially noteworthy events. Alberto Bettiol’s sixth place at San Sebastian today IS a noteworthy event – although it might not be obvious on paper.

    The young Italian has gone from strength-to-strength this season. He has yet to net that big win, so his performances may fly ever-so-slightly under your radar. This is us putting you on notice. Keep Bettiol on your radar. We’re convinced he’s on the cusp of something big.

    Michel Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) outsprinted Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) for the win in San Sebastian today. The trio was part of a five-rider move that formed on the flat run-in to the finish line. Gallopin and Mollema had escaped over the final climb with Mikel Landa (Sky). First Kwiatowksi and then Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) caught the leaders just beyond the final descent.

    In their wake a group that included several pre-race favorites chased. Cannondale-Drapac was represented by Rigoberto Uran and Alberto Bettiol. Uran had came over the top as part of the third chase group. Bettiol clawed his way back to Uran on the descent.

    “In the final I was feeling pretty good,” said Bettiol. “We had to help Rigo to catch the final kick from the front. We did, as always, good work with Rigo and put him in the best position.”

    Uran had a dig on the last climb, and while he briefly made contact with the leaders, he faded slightly and was eventually reabsorbed by what was then group two on the road. Bettiol was one group further back, and on the steepest slopes of the climb, he dug deep to bridge the gap up to Uran.

    “As soon as we hit the last kick on the climb, I looked down, and I didn’t think about anything,” said Bettiol. “I went full, full, full for one kilometer. At the end, I saw Rigo on the front with 10-12 guys. I was with four or five others just behind.

    “As soon as we started down, I didn’t think about anything, we caught the Rigo group, but I didn’t really know what was happening ahead,” Bettiol added. “Then [sport director] Juanma [Garate] came on the radio and said five guys were in front with 15 seconds.”

    The race flattened out just inside four kilometers left to race.

    “I didn’t think about anything when we hit the final flat part,” said Bettiol. “I attacked at three kilometers to go in the tunnel. I gained a gap immediately, and that’s what I held to the line.”

    Bettiol finished 28-seconds behind Kwiatkowski and 10-seconds ahead of the 17-riders that made up the next group to hit the line.

    “I wasn’t sure if I would hang on to finish sixth,” said Bettiol. “I was really à bloc. In the end, Rigo said to me ‘good job’, and I was really proud of the teamwork that we did together. Even the other guys on the team, too. It’s like it always has been in the last two months.”

    WHEN SIXTH PLACE IS MORE THAN SIXTH PLACE

    Bettiol’s result in San Sebastian comes on the heels of his excellent Tour de France debut. He finished in fifth place on stage three on a day that drew out the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora – hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors). He punched well above his weight during the entire Tour in support of Uran. He’s shown strength and versatility on the flats and in the hills.

    “Alberto has improved more than any rider on this team,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “He started with us three years ago when he was just a baby. He wasn’t quite ready to be a pro, but we nurtured him along, and now he is one of our key riders. He will continue to move towards being one of the best one-day riders in the world.”

    The vote of confidence from Vaughters is part of Bettiol’s broader objective this season. He aimed to prove that he could compete with the best by contending with the best, a further step in his growth and development.

    “My goal at the start of the season was to win one race this year, whatever it is, and to keep growing up,” said Bettiol. “I’m not so young by experience but I’m young in age, and I still have more developing to do. My goal every year is to get better and better. I think this year I have shown my team and all the people, the staff working around me, that I can take another step forward.

    “The season is not finished,” Bettiol added. “In this part of the season, I always go pretty well – like we saw last year. Tomorrow I will ride London. I can’t say how it will be, but for sure I will give 100 percent. Then I will approach the one-day classics we have coming with a good feeling and a good spirit, after a bit of rest of course.”

    Bettiol credits the team, particularly the Tour group, for providing him with the support he needs to reach his potential. He believes Cannondale-Drapac as a whole is on an upswing, and he’s proud to be a part of it all.

    “It’s been such a long time that I’ve worked with these same people,” said Bettiol. “More or less, we’ve been together for almost three months. These guys, as I said after the Tour, these guys are my second family. And I mean the staff and the sport directors, too. I’m really happy that I find myself in the perfect atmosphere.

    “In this atmosphere, for sure, we’re going to do more great things like we did at the Tour, like we did in Dauphiné and California. We started good and we will finish better and better. I’m sure of it.”