Much has been said on the topic of Carlos Betancur. Good, bad, and in between. His case is fascinating not only because of the amount of mystry that seems to surround him but also the perceived raw talent the guy has. Since I like playing devil’s advocate, let me be his.
Betancur joined AG2R, from Acqua & Sapone, at the end of the 2012 season on a two-year contract for the 2013 season. What a season he had. In the Ardennes alone, he seemed like a future force to be reckoned with. You add to that a fifth place in the Giro d’Italia and the young rider classification and he started to garner more than a bit of attention. The 2014 season started, and it seemed like there was no stopping him. He got his first major win, Paris Nice. He won in style winning two stages, the youth competition and in the process getting the better of big names like Rui Costa, Geraint Thomas, and Jose Joaquín Rojas. That's when everything seemed to go down hill.
Much has been said about Betancur disappearing and not enough about his team. While I do believe that in cycling the onus is on the rider to put in the miles and not put on the kilos; there has to be something said about the responsibility of support which the team must give.
Colombia is a weird place. Colombians have been part of the European cycling scene since the 1960s. Emilio ‘Cochise’ Rodriguez got the amateur hour record in the Mexico City's velodrome in 1970 and in 1971 in Track World Championships in Varese (Italy), Rodriguez won the Amateurs 4.000ms individual track pursuit beating Swiss Josef Fuchs. And since then we have had someone in the peloton baffling the Europeans. Since then, Colombians have been seen with suspicion. We brought weird things to eat, rode in a completely different style, diminutive in size.
Colombians have come a long way since the time of Agua Panela and Bocadillos (the fuel of the gods) and of this new generation AG2R have been the only team to not try to understand, come, and see what Colombia is. Trek sent a press officer and photographer to Colombia to follow Julian Arredondo around right before his appearance in the National Championship in 2015. Then Garmin Sharp now Cannondale had Ben King come to Colombia with Janier Acevedo. In 2014, Sky sent a whole team of scientists to Rionegro Antioquia with Sergio Henao to study the effects of Altitude training on those who live and are born at altitude. Uran had the support of Specialized Colombia while at Etixx. The Movistar riders have had coaches come down to visit. Orica's Neil Stephen has interacted with the Colombian National team in several instances, while Matt White raced with Victor Peña (also Chaves is the one that spends the least amount of time in Colombia compared to the rest of Colombian Cyclists).
So Betancur. He “disappears” and no one in his team bothered to send someone to see? According to reports, the first time he disappeared he had a massive and important viral sickness.
Granted this also coincides, probably, with when he found out he was going to become a dad with his then girlfriend. Some people take that news well, others don’t. The baby was born last year in February, and if Facebook and other social media is to be believed, his son is the only thing in his life since he was born. My theory is that he took the news well and couldn’t figure how to handle this new responsibility. With his career failing, he found more and more solace in his family, something he wouldn’t have in Europe. I think he did try.
Enter Movistar. I am still not sure how he managed that. Much has been said about the fact that with Movistar he would have Nairo, Dayer and Winner for support to help with staying in shape and training. I doubt this very much. They don’t live anywhere near each other, they don’t really talk about each other. Betancur has a much stronger relationship with Uran and there was a rumor back in 2014 that Uran was going to get him a contract with Etixx.
This year he looks more focused. He got married to the mother of his son in November, and seems to have lost some weight… just maybe not cheeks. He seems to be following along the team rules, and no rumour of discontent have surfaced yet. Yet bad luck seems to continue to haunt him. This time it was visa issues, which have been resolved now. He will be travelling to Europe on the 9th of March and is expected to be part of the Milan San Remo squad.