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AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
Carlos Betancur is banking on having fully recovered from a recent sickness as he aims to make an impact at Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race. The Colombian climber was fourth in this race last year before going on to manage an impressive fifth-placed finish at May’s Giro d’Italia, winning the young rider classification. And having started this season in impressive form by winning March’s Paris-Nice week-long stage race, many had the 24-year-old down as one of the favorites at Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne. But Betancur abandoned during the Tour of Catalunya at the end of March and the Tour of the Basque Country earlier this month due to illness, something which has blighted his Ardennes Classics campaign so far. Yet the AG2R rider says he’s coming back into form.
“I feel good, we’ll see tomorrow (Sunday). It’s a race that’s a bit too long but we’ll see tomorrow how I feel,” he told AFP on Saturday. “I was expecting something more (at Fleche) but I was ill for almost two weeks. I had to stop (training) and it’s not easy to get back in form. But slowly I’m managing to get better.”
Betancur was 65th at last week’s Amstel Gold Race, the first of the three Ardennes Classics in April, almost three minutes behind winner Philippe Gilbert. He improved markedly on that in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne, finishing just a minute behind winner Alejandro Valverde in 36th place. But Betancur is not sure Sunday’s 100th edition of the ‘Doyenne’ (the oldest race) won’t come too soon for him to challenge the favorites.
“You need a lot of strength, tomorrow’s a very long race (263km) and I think at the end Valverde, Purito (Joaquim Rodriguez) and Gilbert, these are the ones who will make a difference in the final.”
Valverde is a twice former winner in Liege, Rodriguez has twice finished second while Gilbert, who was born in nearby Verviers, won in 2011 and has the added inspiration of trying to win this year in front of King Philippe of the Belgians While he is expecting to improve on his previous Ardennes showings this week, Betancur is aware that he probably doesn’t have the condition to challenge for the victory.
“I thought I’d do well (at Fleche) but I was ill and there’s nothing you can do about that. “I stopped for 10 days. I thought I could get my form back but it was very difficult. I’ll see how I go but I don’t think I’m in great form, although we’ll see.”