Thirty seconds after Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) had soloed to victory on stage two of the Tour de Suisse, the peloton charged towards the line. No one had told Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) that the day had already been claimed by the Norwegian.
The Italian out-sprinted what was left of the fast men in the peloton, not insignificantly beating Michael Matthews (Team BikeExhange-Jayco), Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates). He punched the air in delight, thinking that he had clinched his fourth ever professional win; his first since the Giro d'Italia last year
However, Leknessund had already claimed the moment of glory, celebrating in the sun alone, and so Bettiol's cheer was erroneous. He was soon over his mistake, as silly as it looked on the cameras, and was seen joking around with Trentin after the stage, as the UAE rider attempted to get him to celebrate again for the waiting cameras. He was smiling by the time he was interviewed on television.
"I beat my Italian friend so I was still happy," Bettiol explained after. "I don’t know what happened – as you can see, my radio is off – and now my friends will all be joking with me today and tomorrow."
It is not the first time that such an event has happened. It brought to mind Annemiek van Vleuten's silver medal in the road race at the Tokyo Olympics last year, when the Dutchwoman celebrated, not knowing Anna Kiesenhofer had already won gold.
Last week, Wout van Aert did the opposite, celebrating too early, which partly gifted victory to David Gaudu on stage three of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"It was a really tough stage, and we almost won," Bettiol continued. "Jonas was in the front. Yesterday he wasn’t feeling good but today he showed that he was. I had all the team around me in the final and I think after the bad performance from yesterday, we are back on track."
It has not been an easy 2022 for the former Tour of Flanders winner. His result on Monday was his joint-best result all year, as he has been a casualty of illness, which has been such a problem for the peloton this year.
"I just started my approach to the Tour de France, my big appointment of the year," Bettiol said. "I didn’t race much in the first part of the year because I had some health problems with COVID and stuff, but I’m really, really happy. I’ve just started and I think I will improve a lot during the Tour de Suisse. This year it’s really tough and I think that’s good for me."
He will hope he is actually in first place the next time he celebrates crossing the line, and his form in this sprint suggests this could happen sooner rather than later.
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