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“I have been quite quiet. I put on a bit of weight at the end of the year, so my preparation was a little slower. [San Luis] helped to regain my rhythm and return to competition," Betancur says

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CARLOS ALBERTO BETANCUR

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17.02.2014 @ 16:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After winning the best young riders' jersey in last year's Giro d'Italia, Carlos Betancur has set his sights on a similar feat in the Tour de France when he makes his debut in La Grande Boucle in the summer. Having shown good form in the recent Tour Mediteraneen, the Colombian is happy with the state of his form at this time of the year.

 

For several years, Carlos Betancur was known as a big talent but while he rode for Acqua e Sapone, the biggest team didn't take much notice of the former U23 silver medalist. Despite dominating the Italian one-day scene in 2012, only Ag2r-La Mondiale showed any kind of interest to sign him for the 2013 season.

 

That proved to be a wise decision by the French team. After a slow start to the season where he rode the Tour de San Luis in January but postponed his European debut until the Volta a Catalunya in late March, he started to get the ball rolling in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April. He finished 7th overall after being narrowly beaten into second by compatriot Sergio Henao on stage 3 and went on to finish 3rd and 4th in Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege respectively.

 

However, his most impressive performance was delivered in the Giro d'Italia where he seemed to be the second best climber behind eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali. His time trial abilities and an unfortunate crash meant that he couldn't do better than 5th but he won the white jersey for best young rider and was 2nd on no less than three stages.

 

The second part of his season wasn't as successful as expected after personal problems destroyed his preparations for the Vuelta a Espana. However, he gradually rode himself into form and ended his season in the Tour of Beijing where he was 12th overall.

 

In 2014, he plans to make his debut in the Tour de France. While Domenico Pozzovivo will carry the Ag2r flag in the Giro, Betancur will be part of three-pronged attack in La Grande Boucle as he lines up with fellow GC riders Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet.

 

Betancur may have been brought up through the ranks in Italy but has always been fascinated by the biggest race in the world. He was quick to put his hands up to do the Tour when the race schedules for the coming season was outlined and he dreams about replicating his success from the Giro next year: to become the second Colombian in a row to win the white jersey in the Tour after Nairo Quintana's triumph in this year's edition of the race.

 

“My main objective is the Tour de France,” he told the website El Colombiano. "I have been carefully lowering my weight, improving my pace and building the kilometres. I want to fight for the young rider’s title at the Tour.”

 

Betancur clearly suffered from weight problems in last year's Vuelta and when he made a discrete season debut in the Tour de San Luis - finishing a lowly 111th - he admitted that he needed to lose several kg. However, he claimed that it would be easily done when he arrived in Europe and it seems that he is on the right track.

 

“I have been quite quiet,” he says. “I put on a bit of weight at the end of the year, so my preparation was a little slower. [San Luis] helped to regain my rhythm and return to competition.”

 

The low-key performance in San Luis was followed by a very strong showing in the Tour Mediteraneen. He did a surprisingly good time trial and set teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud up for the stage-winning attack on the Mont Faron in yesterday's queen stage. He still managed to finish 9th himself, ending the race in a very fine 11th.

 

Speaking ahead of the final stage, he was pleased with his progress.

 

"I feel much better in this beautiful race in France," he said. "On Sunday, I hope to climb with the best on Mont Faron to get to know my real condition. So far I am very happy with my performance and how the body has responded."

 

Before getting to the Tour de France, Betancur will do a lot of racing in France where he has done little racing in the past. However, his first big objective is in Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

"I have red-circled the Tour of the Basque Country and the Ardennes classics in the Netherlands and Belgium," he said. "Last year I had some excellent results there."

 

Betancur will next line up in the Tour du Haut Var next weekend.

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