Team Wanty-Groupe Gobert won yesterday for Antoine Demoitié, the Belgian cyclist who died three weeks ago after a crash in Ghent-Wevelgem.
As soon as Enrico Gasparotto crossed the line to claim his second Amstel Gold Race title he pointed to the sky and explained the victory was for his dead team-mate.
The Italian won the WorldTour race on Sunday with an attack on the final Cauberg climb that was strong enough to hold off the bunch.
“I had to wait for the good moment because there was a huge headwind in the last metres,” Gasparotto said. “This victory is for Antoine Demoitié’s family. Today, I had an angel on my shoulder. When I thought about Antoine, I went faster.”
The 25-year-old Wanty-Groupe Gobert cyclist crashed with three others in Ghent-Wevelgem on March 27 as the race went through northern France, near Sainte-Marie-Cappel. After falling, a race jury motorbike hit him. That night, doctors pronounced him dead.
The second division Belgian team pulled out of the Three Days of De Panne stage race and said it would only re-start when it could properly do so in Demoitié’s memory. They came close in other races, Gasparotto placed second in the Brabantse Pijl last Wednesday, before they finally won one for Demoitié.
“After the tragic event we hoped to win a race,” sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren said. “This victory is a reward for the whole team. A WorldTour race for a Pro-Continental team is fantastic. I would like to thank the entire team.”
“After the tragic event of the last weeks, this victory will provide happiness and support to the whole team,” added general manager Jean-François Bourlart. “It is Wanty-Groupe Gobert’s most beautiful victory since the creation of the team.”
The win was also the team’s first victory of 2016 and matched Gasparotto’s 2012 win in the Amstel Gold Race, when he raced for team Astana.
“I felt sick, I couldn’t sleep the night I heard the news about Antoiné,” Gasparotto added yesterday. “The team told me to continue to train in Tenerife, instead of making the trip to be at his funeral.
“I felt a big responsibility ahead of these races. [The day before Amstel Gold] Antoine’s wife came to see us and told us to ‘Go for it.’ It’s not easy on me. I’m 34, I have a wife. I’m thinking about Antoine’s death every day. It’s so fresh.”