“Winning the team class is proof of our commitment, strength and power.”
– Alberto Bettiol
EF Education First Pro Cycling Team won the Tirreno-Adriatico team classification in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday after putting two riders in the top four on the final stage time trial.
“The team win shows that all the riders on the team are in top condition,” said . “It was really evident this week that we were all moving well. It’s promising for future races that everyone in this group has this level of fitness.” Simon Clarke
“For me, the team win means that the teamwork is there,” said . “We achieved the team win because we worked for and with each other every single day. Winning the team class is proof of our commitment, strength and power.” Alberto Bettiol
“The team classification means solidity and brings confidence,” added sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “We played as a team without one single leader, and the team classification reflects our strategy: every day more riders involved to try to win.”
While Clarke, Bettiol and their Tirreno teammates had no single stand-out result throughout the week, it was a series of consistent performances throughout the seven-day Italian stage race that resulted in the team classification title.
The EF Education First Tirreno squad set the early fast time on the opening stage team time trial, a time that was eventually good for seventh place.
“We could have done even better,” Bettiol noted. “The first teams all rode in the rain. The teams ahead of us in the results, they rode in the dry.”
Bettiol was third on the first road stage, stage two, keeping good company across the finish line. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – QuickStep) sprinted to victory in Pomarance as Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) bested Bettiol for best of the rest.
The biggest gains were made on the weekend with back-to-back undulating stages. Bettiol and Clarke came across the line side-by-side in sixth place and seventh place on stage four in Fossombrone. Clarke backed up his stage four rider with tenth place on stage five in Recanati.
“The effort that is being put in to prepare us for these WorldTour races, it’s motivating to us all.”
– Simon Clarke
“That was my highlight, that tough day two days ago where I was tenth,” said Clarke. “I really had my eye on that stage, was focused on doing well. Despite a few mishaps and misfortunes, I still managed to finish in the top ten. I was hoping for better, but it was a super tough day, and I was happy to be able to finish close to the front on that stage.”
The penultimate stage was a quiet one for EF Education First, belying the surprise the team had in store for fans on the last day of racing.
continued his trend of top time trial rides but on a bigger stage and with a far stronger field. His early time was good for third place until Bettiol came in and bumped Langeveld down a spot. Sebastian Langeveld
Langeveld, who has yet to finish outside a top ten in a time trial this season with sixth place at Etoile de Bessèges and second at Tour de la Provence, added fourth place at the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial to his early season results. Bettiol was quick enough to secure second.
“The highlight of our whole week had to be the time trial today,” said Clarke. “Having two guys in the top five and seeing the whole team having a good time trial result is a result of our renewed focus on time trialing. We’ve shown significant improvement in this area already this season.”
“[Trainer] Peter Schep has spent a lot of time with me and my teammates working on our time trial position,” said Bettiol. “It’s made a huge difference.”
The Tirreno team title is EF Education First’s second team classification win this year, following the Tour Colombia 2.1 team classification victory in February. Add in the team’s six wins in the opening two months of the season, and it’s clear that the riders have lifted their collective game.
“I really think the lift is coming from management and sponsorship, ownership,” said Clarke. “We’ve had a huge increase in commitment from EF and from the management over the last year, and that’s really being felt by all of us on the bike. What is being done for us, the effort that is being put in to prepare us for these WorldTour races, it’s motivating to us all. We absolutely appreciate it, and I know we’re all happy we can deliver the results as a show of appreciation for that effort and to show that their efforts are effective.”
“We are a strong group, and everyone is really focused on getting better and better and better,” said Bettiol. “And also, after all, we are friends and we really take care of each other. And we like each other even when we come off the bike.”
“There are more reasons than one for improvements, but they all start from the stability and the willing to improve that EF has delivered to every department,” said Guidi. “The focus to get results and commitment comes from the whole group: riders, staff, management, sponsors and owner.”