Although Carlos Betancur has struggled with poor form and his weight at various parts of the season, and went AWOL prior to the Tour de France and ultimately did not do the race, the Ag2r La Mondiale team has said that the rider will remain with the team in 2015.
According to team manager Vincent Lavenu, frank talks have led to a rebuilding of the Colombian’s relationship with the squad.
“I really struggled to absorb the fact that he did not show up for an appointment that we set it in June,” said Lavenu. He was referring back to the rider’s non-showing in Europe prior to the Tour de Suisse, something Betancur blamed on illness.
“We really discussed the problem and tensions eventually subsided. With that, we now take a fresh start.”
Lavenu appears to point a finger of blame at Betancur’s agent, Giuseppe Acsquadro. Earlier this month the Italian claimed an agreement had been reached with Lavenu whereby the rider would leave the team.
“All this came from Italy and I know how,” he said, seeming to refer to Acsquadro. “He is still under contract until 2016 and he will stay, that’s for sure.”
He accepted that dealing with Betancur is not simple at times.
“He is not an easy guy, a pure talent, but you have to behave like a top athlete. I know he’s homesick regularly, he arrived in Europe at a young age, but he must learn to live with us and it fits our philosophy and not we with his.”
In order to help that happen, Lavenu said that the team is willing to make efforts to make things simpler for the rider. “If necessary, we can bring those close to him, his family, his girlfriend to Europe, to make him feel less alone.”
Betancur has long showed clear ability. He was runner-up in the world under 23 championships in 2009 and the following season took two stages and the overall classification in the 2010 Baby Giro. Last season he was fifth overall and the best young rider in the Giro d’Italia and also took third in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
While he appeared overweight when he arrived back in Europe at the start of this season, he was still able to take two stages plus the overall classification in Paris-Nice. He also took a stage, the points classification and the overall in the Tour du Haut Var.
However things became complicated when he quit both the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country, then did not ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège due to bronchitis. He returned to Colombia and while he was due to return to France on June 3rd, was a no-show at the airport.
Lavenu is willing to put that behind him now. “During our discussions, Carlos showed goodwill. We must start again on a new basis. I know that sportingly speaking, he has character and he is a tough guy. In fact, he is bigger on every level.”
Meanwhile L’Equipe has also confirmed that 2013 Tour de France stage winner Jan Bakelants will sign a two year contract with the team. The 28 year old is a former winner of the Tour de l’Avenir and held the yellow jersey for two stages in last year’s Tour after winning stage two.
This season the 28 year old Omega Pharma QuickStep rider took a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné and placed a solid 24th overall in the Tour.