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"I am not surprised by the win. Yes, there was Degenkolb. But again, the race was difficult and it was not a classic sprint. Degenkolb is doing well in the uphill sprint, but I can make beautiful things too," Betanc...

Photo: Sirotti








22.02.2014 @ 22:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) surprised the entire cycling world when the beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) in the uphill sprint in today's first stage of the Tour du Haut-Var. Betancur himself, however, was not the slightest surprised but admits that it will be difficult to win the race overall.


Everything were reversed in today's sprint finish in the first stage of the Tour du Haut-Var when tiny climber Carlos Betancur beat big German sprinter John Degenkolb in the slightly uphill dash to the line. The win was Betancur's first in Ag2r colours after several 2nd places in 2013 but came in unexpected circumstances.


However, Betancur was not surprised by the outcome of the sprint.


"It was a very difficult stage," he told DIrectvelo. "In the final kilometres, the team did a very good job. I managed to find the little strength I had left in the final to win the race. 


"I am not surprised by the win. Yes, there was Degenkolb. But again, the race was difficult and it was not a classic sprint. Degenkolb is doing well in the uphill sprint, but I can make beautiful things too. I talked with the guys during the stage. I thought the finish might be a bit difficult for my teammates. When I passed the line for the first time, I thought that I really could make a good result today.


“We expected the last kilometers to be very fast but it turned out to be more difficult than expected and I felt comfortable in this final.


"After the Tour de San Luis where I started my season, my shape has quickly improved and I'm not surprised having good feelings today. I also took part in a good training camp with the team this week and I have felt well for a couple of days.


"Today, everything went well. Ag2r is a team that knows how to ride for its leader, the understanding is excellent and results follow. I often finished in 2nd place in 2013 and it was dear to my heart to bring a victory to the team as early as possible this season. This success is for the whole team."


Betancur now leads the race overall but as there are no bonus seconds in the race, he is equal on time with Degenkolb and his teammate Samuel Dumoulin who finished 3rd. Tomorrow's stage is a very hilly affair, with several short, very steep climbs, but the final 20km are mostly flat.


Betancur knows that it will be difficult to keep the lead.


"Regarding tomorrow, nothing is decided," he said. "There are not many differences in the overall standings. There are many dangerous riders, starting with Degenkolb, who could win tomorrow.

"It will be difficult to win but not impossible. In any case, we will do everything to be successful but we’ll see tomorrow."


Sports director Julien Jurdie was pleased with the outcome that also saw Dumoulin and Mikael Cherel finish in the top 5 for his team.


“First, I want to say that the whole team wishes to dedicate this victory to Kristof Goddaert who passed away this week," he said. "He spent three seasons with us and we are proud to honor his memory today with this stage win.


This stage went as we planned. We took a rather quiet start because we knew that the  Giant Team would wish to control the race for Degenkolb. We arrived together at the final circuit that was difficult because of the wind. The final part was quite difficult and more suited to a puncheur than a real sprinter. 


"Our tactic was originally organized around Samuel (Dumoulin) in a sprint. Carlos (Betancur) had to lead him out, but they finally decided that everyone should try his luck in the sprint. Again, we saw a very good collective work today. We have started the season well, so the riders gain confidence and we feel respected in the bunch."


"Surprised? No, because we know Carlos' physical abilities," he added to Directvelo. "But it was not necessarily expected. He had to work for Samuel Dumoulin. They discussed in the final, and Carlos found that the finish suited him, so they decided to both sprint. 


"We knew that Giant-Shimano would ride all day. They were the favourites. Samuel likes this kind of finish. He was already fourth here last year. It was more for him. But both have been assisted by Mikael Cherel. 


"To beat Degenkolb doesn't happen every day. It is a big satisfaction, and it proves once again that Carlos is a great rider. He still has a few pounds to lose, but he is a champion. I think we can expect great things from him in a few weeks. 


"At the briefing this morning it was everything for Samuel while our climbers should save themselves for tomorrow. We will do our best tomorrow. We also have Mikael Cherel and Maxime Bouet in great condition. On a circuit like this, I think it's good to have multiple cards. Tomorrow we will play to win the overall. The race will be difficult to handle. We need to be smart. I expect a good stage. "



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