“Today I had an angel on my shoulder”: Enrico Gasparotto dedicates Amstel Gold Race win to Antoine Demoitie

Italian wins for second time in career after attack on the Cauberg

Enrico Gasparotto dedicated his Amstel Gold Race win to late Wanty-Groupe Gobert team-mate Antoine Demoitie after beating Tinkoff’s Michael Valgren in a two-up sprint.

Just three weeks after Demoitie died, after being struck by a motorbike at Gent-Wevelgem, Gasparotto pointed to the sky as he crossed the finish line, sealing his second career win at the Amstel Gold Race.

The Italian, who first won in 2012 and hasn’t been outside the top ten in the race since, attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg and – though the gap was never significant – he and Valgren worked well together to hold off the peloton.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) finished third, rounding off the podium by winning the sprint from the 29-strong peloton, but Gasparotto had only one person on his mind after the race.

Enrico Gasparotto dedicated his second Amstel Gold Race win to Antonie Demoitie (pic: Sirotti)

“This victory is for Antoine Demoitie’s family,” he said. “Today, I had an angel on my shoulder. When I thought about Antoine, I went faster.”

He added: “I had incredible legs today. Everything went as we planned. It is the most beautiful victory for the team.

“The team did a really good job. We had a rider in the break and then Bjorn Thurau in a chase group. The rest of the team protected me very well. It was perfect.”

British team-mate Mark McNally also earned praise from Gasparotto, having travelled 900km after a late call-up to the race from the Tour du Finistere – where the Liverpool-born rider was originally scheduled to ride.

McNally protected Gasparotto in the early parts of the race and “stayed by my side until 60 kilometres to go” but it was Orica-GreenEDGE controlling the peloton for Michael Matthews.

Team Sky had also contributed to the pace-setting for defending champion Michal Kwiatkowski, but he was dropped on the third climb of the Cauberg.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), suffering after breaking his finger in a training ride incident, was another big-name rider who found the pace too hot – with Paris-Roubaix champion Mat Hayman and Michael Albasini putting in big shifts on the front.

Gasparotto attacked on the final ascent of the Cauberg and when Michael Valgren (Tinkoff, background) joined him the two did enough to stay clear (pic: Sirotti)

The remnants of the day’s 11-man break, which had been out front since the fourth of the day’s 34 climbs, were already in sight and when they were caught former winner Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) jumped clear.

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) caught and passed the Czech rider with ease though, and established a 20-second lead of his own, but Albasini again upped the tempo and caught him on the lower slopes of the Cauberg.

The attacking was far from over though, and Gasparotto pulled clear next with Valgren joining him over the top of the final climb.

Despite only having a very small lead, and with the peloton bearing down behind them, the two worked very well together with Valgren happy to pull from the 800m to go mark.

It allowed Gasparotto to sit on the wheel until the final sprint, and from there he passed the Dane and pointed to the sky as he crossed in first place.

Amstel Gold Race 2016: result

1) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Wanty-Groupe Gobert – 6.18.03hrs
2) Michael Valgren (DEN) – Tinkoff – ST
3) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF +4”
4) Bryan Coquard (FRA) – Direct Energie – ST
5) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
6) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – Etixx-QuickStep
7) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
8) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar
9) Loic Vliegen (BEL) – BMC Racing
10) Tim Wellens (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal

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