Alberto Bettiol made sure his first win as a professional was a memorable one as he stormed to solo victory in the Tour of Flanders.
Bettiol made his break for glory with 20km remaining in one of the season’s biggest monuments and benefitted from his chasing rivals being unable to find anyone to set a pace for them.
The Italian, who had finished fourth in last month’s E3 BinckBank Classic, eventually crossed the line with 14 seconds in hand of Kasper Asgreen with Alexander Kristoff winning the sprint for third place.
Fourth place went to Dutch champion Mathieu van der Poel, who made a miraculous recovery from a crash with around 70km remaining that left him on the deck nursing his shoulder for more than a minute.
“I didn’t imagine it. I was sitting behind Greg Van Avermaet, I was expecting him to attack but it never came,” Bettiol said.
“From the radio I heard my sports director say if I have legs, not to wait too much because otherwise guys like Kristoff and Sagan who are faster than me might stay with me.
Before the flat part of the Kwaremont, I attacked, and I never turned back. I looked on the asphalt after the Kwaremont and I couldn’t see anybody.
“The last 14 kilometres after the Paterburg were the longest of my life. I still don’t really believe it, even now. I don’t know where I am or what I’m talking about.”