VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Enrico Gasparotto started today’s Amstel Gold Race as a long shot, with 34 to 1 odds, but took the win. It was a surprise much in the same fashion as his Italian road championship win in 2005 ahead of Filippo Pozzato. Few had heard of Gasparotto then, and few had tipped him today at the cold and rainy start in Maastricht.
Gasparotto was a neo-professional with team Liquigas-Bianchi in 2005. His name re-appeared in the headlines two years later, in fact, Danilo Di Luca seemed to be cursing it. Gasparotto led the team over the line first in the opening team time trial leg of the Giro d’Italia. Not such a big deal normally, but that day it also meant that he was able to take the leader’s pink jersey. Di Luca seemed to be fuming, even if he told a different story afterwards.
Gasparotto’s name hasn’t been in the headlines much since. He won a stage and the overall of the Ster Elektrotoer, and a stage in the Three Days of De Panne in 2008, but that was it. VeloNews.com asked about the years of silence following the winner’s press conference. With Amstel Beer in hand, he looked up and responded, “Silence?”
He said that this year he raced for Roman Kreuziger at Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, he was sick at Milan-San Remo, and at the Tour of the Basque Country, it was Robert Kiserlovski’s turn. ”After eight years as a professional,” he continued, “I know when it’s time to help the others and when it’s time to have my own day.”
He added that last year at Amstel Gold he worked for Alexander Vinokourov and that in 2009, riding for Lampre, he helped defending champion Damiano Cunego. In 2010 he finished third at Amstel, behind Philippe Gilbert and Ryder Hesjedal.
Gasparotto’s blue eyes and blond hair set him apart from other Italians. He comes from Italy’s Friuli region near Austria and Slovenia. These days he calls the Como area home, near Varese.
His name came up last year linked to Italy’s national coach and former world champion, Paolo Bettini. Bettini reportedly alerted him of an anti-doping control when he was a reserve on the 2010 Italian world championship team. Bettini said at the time that he simply called all of his riders to remind them that they would be controlled the following day, September 21, 2010, so that they would not be late. Nothing ever came of the accusations.
Gasparotto does hope, however, that Bettini calls again — this time because the world championships course finishes on the same Cauberg climb in September.
“It’s still a long time from now until to September and I’ve never even raced the worlds,” Gasparotto said. “The riders will prove themselves in the races and we’ll let [Bettini] work in peace.”