It may still be the early stages of the 2014 European cycling racing calendar but the March Paris-Nice event usually provides a good indication of riders in decent form and those for whom further training is a necessity. Alberto Contador and Bradley Wiggins won the race in 2010 and 2012 respectively before securing the Tour de France title that same year and Richie Porte from Team Sky was the victor last season. 2014 winner Carlos Betancur promises to follow his illustrious predecessors in mounting a successful spring and summer campaign.
Betancur is only 24 years old but rode a creditable Giro d’Italia last year when not only securing fifth place in the event but establishing himself as the leading young rider. This year he has promised to concentrate on his first ever Tour de France and he could be a surprise package among the more experienced riders.
While Team Sky also fielded a strong squad in the Tirreno Adriatico, they did have hopes of winning their third successive Nice-Paris race last week when entrusting the reliable Geraint Thomas as team leader. The Welshman did lead the race at one point but by winning both stages five and six which included a brutal short climb to the finishing line at Fayence, Betancur claimed the race lead which he never appeared likely to lose in the two subsequent stages in the Mediterranean alpine area.
With a proven ability to climb and some decent results registered in the European spring classics last season, Betancur is definitely one of the more promising riders to emerge from the peleton in recent seasons. His rise to prominence may also signal a rebirth of the Colombian cyclists with fellow compatriot Nairo Quintana having enhanced his burgeoning reputation by earning second position in the 2013 Tour de France.
Although, Betancur has proved his early season form and may achieve more success in the coming weeks, it may be beyond expectations to cite the young Colombian as a potential winner of this summer’s tour.
A podium position is a possibility and for such an achievement, a strong back-up team is essential. His Ag2r team does contain the experienced Christophe Riblon who earned a famous win on L’Alpe d’Huez during last year’s Tour de France and promising young climber Romain Bardet, while they also finished second in the team classification. However, none of their riders finished in the overall top ten positions and they may be incapable of providing sustained assistance for when Team Sky are expected to increase the pressure at the front of the race for current champion Chris Froome.
For Betancur, a good showing in the 2014 Tour is a realistic prospect particularly after his impressive win at Paris-Nice and this may encourage those teams intent on winning the coveted yellow jersey to seek his signature in the next few seasons.