CYCLING: Viva Italia! Bastianelli and Bettiol claim wins in sweep of Ronde van Vlaanderen

A happy Marta Bastianelli (ITA), winning the famed Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday!

Imagine winning The Masters or Wimbledon for your first professional victory. That’s about what Italy’s Alberto Bettiol, 25, achieved by winning the 103rd Ronde van Vlaanderen in Belgium on Sunday.

Riding with an accomplished lead pack that included superstars like three-time World Champion Peter Sagan (SVK), Olympic Champion Greg van Avermaet (BEL) and Vuelta a Espana winner Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Bettiol tried an attack on the Oude Kwaremont with 16 km to go … and no one followed.

A previous attack on the same climb earlier in the race wasn’t decisive, but this time Bettiol made everyone else pay for not going with him. No one could cover his charge on the descent and with a flat ride on the last 12 km, he sailed into Oudenaarde with his first professional title!

Bettiol had finished second in the Bretagne Classic in 2016, but otherwise never higher than third, although he was second in the Individual Time Trial to close the Tirreno Adriatico last month, presaging his ride to the finish on Sunday.

Dane Kasper Asgeen, 24, got his first World Tour medal in second and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff led a parade of frustrated sprinters in third.

In the women’s race, the World Tour leader, Marta Bastianelli, showed once again that she’s the only one who knows how to beat the Dutch riders in 2019.

Coming into the race, Bastianelli had won the Ronde van Drenthe, the only Women’s World Tour race this season not won by a rider from the Netherlands. In the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the decisive move came at the 146 km mark, with about 13 km left.

Denmark’s Cecile Uttrup Ludwig took the lead on the ascent, but was joined by reigning Women’s World Tour champ Annemiek van Vleuten (NED), Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma and Bastianelli. There was a quick descent and then the final climb over the Paterberg and with van Vleuten leading, Niewiadoma lost contact and three raced to the finish.

Van Vleuten was the first to sprint, but the Italian had more in her legs and got to the line first, with van Vleuten and Ludwig given the same time.

For Bastienelli, it was her fifth Women’s World Tour race of the season and she’s finished well in all of them: 4-1-7-4-1. She now has a 660-450 lead over Kirsten Wild (NED) on the Women’s World Tour, but with a long way to go.

In the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships in Aguascalientes (MEX), World Champion Kate Courtney of the U.S. routed a good field, winning by 1:16 over fellow American Erin Huck in the women’s Cross Country race.

The men’s race was much closer, with Canada’s Raphael Gagne edging Jose Ulloa (MEX) by 1:25:47 to 1:26:03, with Colombian Fabio Castaneda third. Summaries:

UCI World Tour/Ronde van Vlaanderen
Antwerp to Oudenaarde (BEL) ~ 7 April 2019
(Full results here)

Final Standings (270.1 km): 1. Alberto Bettiol (ITA), 6:18:49; 2. Kasper Asgreen (DEN), 6:19:03; 3. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), 6:18:06: 4. Mathieu van der Poel (NED), 6:18:06; 5. Nils Politt (GER), 6:18:06; 6. Michael Matthews (AUS), 6:18:06; 7. Oliver Naesen (BEL), 6:18:06; 8. Alejandro Valverder (ESP), 6:18:06; 9. Tiesj Benoot (BEL), 6:18:06; 10. Greg van Avermaet (BEL), 6:18:06.

UCI Women’s World Tour/Ronde van Vlaanderen
Oudenaarde (BEL) ~ 7 April 2019
(Full results here)

Final Standings (159.2 km): 1. Marta Bastianelli (ITA), 4:16:50; 2. Annemiek van Vleuten (NED), 4:16:50; 3. Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (DEN), 4:16:50; 4. Sofia Bertizzolo (ITA), 4:16:57; 5. Ellen van Dijk (NED), 4:16:57; 6. Kasia Niewiadoma (POL), 4:16:57; 7. Chantal Blaak (NED), 4:17:00; 8. Lisa Brennauer (GER), 4:17:00; 9. Lucinda Brand (NED), 4:17:00; 10. Amy Pieters (NED), 4:17:00.

Pan American Mountain Bike Championships
Aguascalientes (MEX) ~ 3-7 April 2019
(Full results here)

Cross Country

Men: 1. Raphael Gagne (CAN), 1:25:47; 2. Jose Ulloa (MEX), 1:26:03; 3. Fabio Castenada (COL), 1:27:00; 4. Keegan Swenson (USA), 1:27:03; 5. Catriel Soto (ARG), 1:28:21. Also in the top 25: 16. Lukas Vrouwenvelder (USA), 1:32:30.

Junior Men: 1. Adair Gutierrez (MEX), 58:39; 2. Riley Amos (USA), 1:00:33; 3. Gustavo Xavier de Oliveira (BRA), 1:01:54.

Women: 1. Kate Courtney (USA), 1:22:28; 2. Erin Huck (USA), 1:23:44; 3. Daniela Campuzano (MEX), 1:25:28; 4. Catharine Pendrel (CAN), 1:25:37; 5. Chloe Woodruff (USA), 1:28:10.

Junior Women: 1. Natalia Torres (MEX), 58:16; 2. Catalina Vidaurre (CHI), 58:50; 3. Valentina Garces (COL), 1:00:39.

Team Event (mixed senior and junior athletes): 1. Mexico (Ulloa, Martinez, Campuzano, Rodriguez, Herrera), 1:16:18.517; 2. United States (Blevins, Amos, Huck, Batten, Vrouwenvelder), 1:17:00.671; 3. Argentina, 1:20:47.819.