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Amstel Gold Race 2016, the first victory in a major classic

Since its entry at the professional level, Wanty-Gobert has achieved a lot of success, averaging ten wins per season. Nice achievements, in major events. But no victory at the highest level yet, until that sunny Sunday 17th of April 2016 on the hills around Valkenburg, in Berg en Terblijt. Enrico Gasparotto triumphed in the Amstel Gold Race, one of the most important spring classics, a prestigious race in the World Tour.

“Winning the Amstel Gold Race, our biggest victory, our first success in a classic, in this context, that was just unbelievable. We will never forget this day. It will remain a precious memory. With a lot of emotions. Many feelings. Because this success followed only three weeks after the tragical death of Antoine Demoitié. We were really sad. The decision to resume racing was not easy to take. We asked ourselves many questions. We were all together. Enrico Gasparotto took the lead and told the guys that they had to pull themselves together and fight, all together, to achieve something exceptional.”

The Italian rider had difficulties to catch his breath after his brutal effort to escape from the favorites on the flanks of the decisive Cauberg. At the end of the race he managed to distance a peloton of chasers and then defeat Danish rider Michael Valgren Andersen in a fight man against man. He was immediately embraced by his teammates, who fell into his arms.

“This victory still means a lot to me. Of course there was the loss of Antoine Demoitié. His death was a horrible shock! For the whole team. The riders, the staff. It was difficult to continue after this loss. Very difficult. I’ve always been lucky during my life, I never experienced the death of someone so close to me. There I was confronted to the death of a teammate, a friend… It made me think that our sport is dangerous, that this could happen to anyone of us. His death reinforced the ties in our team. It brought us closer together. When I reflect on that moment, the second I realized I was the winner, I still feel goosebumps. It was very intense emotionally. I invested so much energy to prepare this… It is probably the high of my career. When you’re aiming for a great result, the whole team needs to be involved. Teammates, trainers, sports directors. In cycling there’s only one winner. But it stays a team sport. I think a made a modest contribution to the progression of Wanty-Gobert. And it makes me proud to see at which level they are now. Thanks to hard work.”

The emotions were intense, tangible, multiplied. This victory in an important classic was a great success for the small team which Wanty-Gobert was at that moment. And this first place in one of the most popular cycling events in the spring was achieved only three weeks after the loss of Antoine Demoitié.

“On the sports side this succes was a turning point for our team. We had proven that we were able to win big races. People were, as it were, discovering us. Some people must have thought: who are those guys? This success opened many doors for us. Like the one of the Tour de France one year later. And we could also attract other riders to whom we didn’t have access before.”

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