Gasparotto finished third at Amstel Gold Race last year behind rivals turned teammates Michael Valgren and Roman Kreuziger but it’s Liege that captures his imagination the most.
“It’s still something possible, really hard but possible. I’m a dreamer so I keep dreaming about Liege,” he says.
The 37-year-old is currently competing at the Volta a Catalunya as he readies for the Ardennes Classics, following a twist in the twilight chapter of a 15-year and counting pro career that saw him leave Bahrain-Merida.
“I was a little bit disappointed because I thought Bahrain could be my last team in my pro career but in life, you never know what happens,” he says.
“To be in Dimension Data is really good for me, for my experience in cycling because the mentality is completely different compared to Bahrain. Bahrain has a more Italian mentality inside the team and Dimension Data no, definitely not. It’s completely a new environment. I’ve only worked before with Kreuziger and [Stephen] Cummings, so two people inside of 50.”
Cycling is typically a younger man’s game, but Gasparotto’s Liege vision isn’t a pipe dream when you consider his consistency in the classics and that the reigning world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is 38.
“With age, with experience, I can see the situation maybe a few seconds before it happens. That helps a lot during the classics,” he says.
“For me, the Ardennes is the week that I have the best feelings, the excitement, adrenaline and everything. It’s something I really love and for that reason I hope to be super good that week.”
The puncheur finished sixth at Liege last season behind former teammate and compatriot Domenico Pozzovivo, the pair left to rue what might have been had they worked together in the race, which Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) won. Jungels finished 37 seconds clear of Michael Woods (EF Education) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), with his teammate Julian Alaphilippe claiming the sprint for fourth.
“In the final kilometre of Liege last year, he [Pozzovivo] could have closed the gap to second and third and then maybe I could do the sprint against Alaphilippe and be third,” Gasparotto recalls. “But it’s something that happened in the race. He wanted to ride for himself and me also. It is like it is. I had a week where I was really pissed immediately after Liege but then it was over. I’m still friends with Pozzovivo.”
SBS will broadcast and live stream the 2019 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
There is potential for similar conflict of interest within the Dimension Data stable throughout the Ardennes, given new signings in Gasparotto, Kreuziger and Valgren alone.
However, Gasparotto believes it won’t be a problem despite his previous experience.
“It’s not about that but the stress that we’re going to have around us because when you have the three podium spots of the previous year then the expectation of the team is super, super high, maybe something incredible,” he says. “Then sometimes it doesn’t work perfectly because with too much pressure on and too much stress it can be difficult to perform really well.”
Gasparotto is supporting Australian Ben O’Connor at Catalunya, which Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) was leading after stage three.
“I hope that from now until the classics my teammates can get some good results to cool down the pressure on us,” he says.