By Gregor Brown in Castelfidardo
Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) has made a good showing this month with a third in the GP Lugano and riding high all week in the Tirreno-Adriatico, including a day in the leader's jersey. The 25 year-old Italian now has La Classicissima, Milano-Sanremo, on his agenda.
"I am happy because second at Tirreno is very, very good for me and a sign for all the people that don't believe in me," Gasparotto said.
Gasparotto blasted away from the leaders on the Tirreno-Adriatico's stage to Castelfidardo with 1300 metres remaining but was brought back by Cancellara, who was defending his race lead. "I worked hard all winter to be here, and it is an important result," he said. "It is good for my morale in light of Sanremo, Belgium and the Giro."
The Italian held the race leader's maglia azzurra for one day after finishing second on Stage 2. "I am happy because I am on good form," smiled Gasparotto. "Now, for Sanremo, I can dream. On Thursday, I will go with some friends to see the final kilometres, and the new climb [of Le Mànie]."
Gasparotto reckons that the 99th Milano-Sanremo - on March 22, the day of his 26th birthday - will be played out differently and might not end in a sprint. "This year, it will be a different Sanremo," he said. "I think that of the sprinters there is only [Alessandro] Petacchi, who is on really good form, the other guys are like me, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Ballan and Riccardo Riccò. This will open a different possibility for Sanremo."
Gasparotto has a fast sprint, but not fast enough for a race like the 298-kilometre Sanremo. Instead Gasparotto will have to take his chances with an attack on the race's closing climbs of Cipressa, with 22.1 kilometres to go, and Poggio, just 6.2km out from the finish. "I have only to try to stay with 'Pippo' [Pozzato] and Ballan, they will attack for sure," he noted of the two riders who have shown superb form in Tirreno. "There is also [Phillip] Gilbert, [Rinaldo] Nocentini and [Davide] Rebellin. You need to watch out for those guys earlier on too, like on the Cipressa."
Milano-Sanremo ranks in importance for the Italians as the Ronde van Vlaanderen does for the Belgians and Gasparotto is no different. "Sanremo is one of those most important races in the season for an Italian rider," he noted. "It is a dream for any Italian rider, especially for me this year, because it is on my birthday. On paper it is an easy race, there are not many climbs, but the distance makes it difficult.
"The emotions of Sanremo are incredible, and because of that it will be hard," he said. "At the end there can only be one champion."
Gasparotto will base himself out of his new bachelor's pad in Carnago, Varese for the next week and then travel to Belgium. The rider relocated from his parents' home in Friuli-Venezia Giulia this month to be closer to other riders for training. "I no longer have time to stay on the internet all day because I have to clean and buy food," he laughed. "It is another sort of life, but it is good."
In Belgium he will race the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl, Three days of De Panne and Ronde van Vlaanderen. "I will leave after Flanders [Ronde - ed.] to prepare for the Giro d'Italia," he explained.