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Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) checks the competition enroute to victory at the Amstel Gold Race
Astana rider insists he is not involved in the Dr. Ferrari investigation
He loves the only Dutch one-day classic and the race route seems to suit him perfectly. He can handle the twisting course and dozens of short climbs and yet still have the speed to sprint for victory.
Last year he beat Jelle Vanendert and Peter Sagan in the sprint atop the summit of the Cauberg, timing his effort to perfection. A week later he was third at Liege-Bastogne-Liege behind teammate Maxim Iglinsky and Vincenzo Nibali – who was then riding for Liquigas but is now a teammate at Astana.
Gasparotto will wear number one this year and be the leader of the Astana team for the Ardennes Classics along with Iglinsky.
"I think I'm going better than I did last year, I was stronger at Paris-Nice than I was at Tirreno-Adriatico last year, and so I think my base is pretty good," Gasparotto told Cyclingnews from his home in Lugano.”
“Of course, it's never easy to repeat a great season. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara proved that recently but I've trained hard and done everything I can to be at my very best for the Ardennes week. I want to be up there, I want to prove that I can do something in the hilly Classics."
Gasparotto went to Teide on the island of Tenerife, immediately after Milan-San Remo for a block of intense and high quality training. He is a regular at the Hotel Parador, high on the slopes of the volcano at 2200 metres.
He struggled in the cold and rain at the recent Tour of the Basque Country after training in the heat of Tenerife but avoided catching a cold.
"I looked after myself and avoided getting sick, so I didn’t waste all the hard work I'd done," he said with relief in his voice.
"Fortunately the weather forecast is good for next week in the Ardennes and it seems we've finally left winter behind. Riders often say they like racing in the rain but I think every rider prefers racing in the dry."
The new Amstel Gold race route and finish
Gasparotto leaves little to chance when he targets a major race and has already studied the new finish and the new route of the Amstel Gold Race.
The finish line is in the same place as it was for last year's world championships, 1.5km further along the road on the top of the Cauberg climb. The flat finish will make it more difficult for winning attacks to go on the Cauberg.
"I think the old finish, at the top of the Cauberg, was better for me," Gasparotto said, with a sigh but without resignation.
"With the finish 1.5km further ahead it means you've got to have the legs to go solo, like Gilbert did when he won the world title, other wise the race is more open. The problem is that Gilbert was on a special day and few riders have the same ability."
"Sagan will almost be unbeatable on the new finish, whereas before on the Cauberg, the climb hurt a lot and produced a lot of lactic acid all the way to the line. Now there's time for riders to recover."
"However it won't be a simple race even for him because they've changed the race route. This year there's an extra time up the Cauberg with just 20km to go. After that there's a lap of the circuit they used for the worlds and then another time up the Cauberg. That'll change the way we race earlier in the race."
Gasparotto is focused and on form for the Ardennes week despite being caught up in the ongoing investigations in Dr. Michele Ferrari.
Numerous witnesses confirmed to USADA that Dr. Ferrari helped them take EPO and other doping products during their careers and evidence confirmed the Italian doctors special relationship with Lance Armstrong during his years of cheating and deception and his seven Tour de France victories.
Investigating magistrate Benedetto Roberti has yet to wrap up his work and decide who should go on trail, but Gasparotto is named in sworn statements given to Italian police as part of the Padua and USADA investigations into Dr Ferrari. Both Leonardo Bertagnolli and Volodymyr Bileka say they underwent tests with Dr. Ferrari at the same time as Gasparotto and trained with him at altitude at St. Moritz and Teide.
Gasparotto neither confirmed nor denied he is a client of Dr. Ferrari to Cyclingnews. It's common knowledge within Italian cycling that being linked to the disgraced sports doctor from Ferrara could spark a three month ban, as has already happened to Filippo Pozzato, Michele Scarponi and Giovanni Visconti.
Gasparotto claims he is not formally under investigation in the Padua case.
"I don’t understand why I have to reply to insinuations that have been made in the press," Gasparotto told Cyclingnews.
"When my name came out, about a year and a half ago, I acted to make sure everything was ok. I've got a document from the investigators in Padua saying that I'm not involved. I gave this document to the President of the Federation and I'm ready to show it to the media too if needed."
"The Italian Olympic Committee hasn't done anything and I've never received anything (legal notifications) at home. I don't understand why I have to continue to justify myself in the press. That's the way I see things."