Rider Interview: January saw the Belgian Wanty-Gobert team, now with Circus as the top line sponsor, present their 2020 line-up in the Spanish Costa Blanca town of Albir. The presentation has become a regular fixture since 2014 as has having a chat with Italian rider Andrea Pasqualon.
Circus-Wanty Gobert training in Spain
2019 was not as good a year for Andrea, but he still had a long season racing from the first of February in Mallorca, right through to Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen in Belgium on October the 13th. There was one win on stage 5 of the Tour Poitou-Charentes en Nouvelle Aquitaine and a load of top placings. There was a Tour de France ride in 2019, but Circus-Wanty Gobert will miss out on the French Grand Tour in 2020. All this and more from Andrea.
PEZ: 2019; what were the high points and the low points?
Andrea Pasqualon: About last year? Yes, I was not so very, very happy about my results. If I compare last year and two years ago, the results of two years ago I had more wins. Four in 2018, one in 2019. I had some problems at the beginning of the season and to keep the good condition was not so easy. I had some problems with my breathing, I had bronchitis after the training camp and for three four months I was not possible to go flat out on the bike. When you don’t feel good and you are not 100%, it is impossible to get the best results. After I was okay and during the Tour also, but the first part of the year I was… on my back.
Sprinting in Mallorca 2020
PEZ: The team must be disappointed not to be riding the 2020 Tour de France?
Yeah. This year, yes for sure. It is a little bit strange. But, we have a good calendar in front of us, as we have all the invitations for the WorldTour one-day races. I’m happy to return to ride the Milano-Sanremo, the Strade Bianche and the Lombardia, all the Italian Classics, in my county of origin. For sure I’m happy for that for that reason.
PEZ: And last years Tour?
I did only one ‘top ten’ and three times in the top 15, but I was very strong on the first part of the Tour. I helped Guillaume Martin (Martin finished 12th overall) and also helped Xandro Meurisse take his third place in La Planche des Belles Filles on stage 6, because I was there until the last the last climb. I rode only for the team in that stage and it was my dream maybe to ride the Tour and get on a podium on a stage. I was not strong enough.
PEZ: Do you think that was because you were ill at the start of the season?
Tour’19 stage 6 break
PEZ: Last year you said when you came out of the Tour you were very strong.
This year I was strong at the start, but, okay, we look forward to this year. No problem, I don’t want to talk about the past. The past is past, it’s gone and now we have to look at this moment; the present and the future. Not so much the future, but the present is important. Now I’m good. I feel good. The team also and I’m happy to be here in good shape.
PEZ: And now you have another Italian teammate.
Yes, Simone Petilli. I’m happy. He’s not a stranger, I rode with him five years ago with the continental Area-Zero team, so now he’s my teammate for the second time. I’m happy because he’s a good guy. He’s a very strong rider on the climbs.
Climbing in the GP Emilia’19
PEZ: Is it good to have somebody to talk to in your own language?
That is also good, but for years I never speak Italian, in this team it’s not possible. I speak English and I understand French well and I speak a little bit of French now. The Flemish for me is too complicated, sorry but I’m from Italy and the origin of my language is Latina and so I prefer to speak French or English or Spanish, but for me Flemish is too difficult.
PEZ: I bet you can swear in Flemish?
PEZ: You will be looking forward to the Italian races, one in particular?
For sure Sanremo and Strade Bianche. Strade Bianche is a particularly special race. I hope one day it will be one of the monument races, Strade Bianche is a fantastic race, it is our Tour of Flanders in Italy.
PEZ: I remember last year you said you loved Flanders and Roubaix.
Yes. So it’s another amazing race.
PEZ: And Lombardia at the end of the year, that’s another long season for you. Another February to October again.
Yeah, for sure the same. Maybe this year we break a little bit during the Tour de France, but we have a possibility to ride the Tour de Pologne. This year the Tour of Poland is earlier because of the Olympic Games, maybe it is another good chance for us to have a nice race. Okay, we don’t ride the Tour, but we want to keep serenity, to stay calm and get some good UCI points for 2021.
The final stage of the Tour de France 2019 – No Tour in 2020
PEZ: 2020 is going to be a strange year for the top guys with the Olympic Games, so maybe there will be more opportunities for everyone else?
Maybe more top riders will ride the Giro and the Tour of Pologne, than the Tour de France in preparation for the Tour de France.
PEZ: The Olympics now seem to be more important than before. It’s the first time we’ve heard people say they won’t finish the tour. Nobody would have said that eight or twelve years ago.
Nobody. But now I think a lot of guys want to ride the Giro and Pologne and then the Olympics because it’s so important. Every four years, you know it’s not every year, guys only have the possibility to ride the Olympic one or two times, not more.
PEZ: You were going to move to Girona, did that happen?
Yes. I moved on Andorra and Girona. When the weather is not good I stay in Girona a lot of riders do that. Girona is good because Andorra is not so far, it’s two hours by car. Andorra is very important as my house is at 2,000 meters and also it is a good place to do some altitude training.
PEZ: And the family?
The family also came to Andorra and Girona with me, they like it. My daughter goes to school there and at the moment she is learning English as she goes to an International kindergarten. In the future we want her to learn Spanish as well as English, and Italian at home with us. We think that would be the perfect situation for our child.
PEZ: What are your hopes for the 2020 season?
I want to be at the front and to get a result in a Classic race. I’ve wanted to do that for years and year and now I’m 32 years-old, it is my dream and I want to do that. I want to do that, and this is particularly because it’s an important season for me. I’m not old, but I’m also not young. You know, when you have 32 years, the ambition is different from when you have 20 years. At this moment I want to make a very good result in a Classic race. It is possible that I could do it, because I have seen every year a step by step. Every year I’m better, better and better and I think now is the moment to be there after two thirty, tow forty and two fifty K. Yesterday I rode 7 hours, 250 K, I think this is a good way to prepare for a Classic.
PEZ: So what’s going to happen with cycling in Italy? The teams that were Italian based; Astana and Bahrain are now much less Italian.
In Italy we have a big, big, big problem. We have a big problem because the culture of cycling now is not a like 30 years ago or 20 years ago or also 10 years ago. When I was a neo-pro we had more than six or seven top teams. Lampre, Liquigas and before there was Saeco, Fassa Bortolo, Bianchi, Alessio and now it’s a big, big problem. Also it’s a big problem for the riders to train in Italy as the drivers don’t have any respect for the cyclist and it’s also for that reason I took my family to live in Andorra and Spain because the culture is so different. When I go out every morning it’s incredible that the drivers have a lot of respect for me and for the other cyclists.
A bit of early season TT training
PEZ: I recently spoke to Alessandro De Marchi, he had a big problem and said much the same. Not that many years ago a pro cyclist in Italy was revered… a hero. Now the drivers don’t seem to care.
It probably needs to start at school with the children, to instruct them to have respect for the bike, because at this moment it is just so dangerous in Italy, it’s my life, cycling is my life and it’s my work. I’m not on the bike for a hobby, they have to change. It’s a mentality. I rode only one day in Italy this winter, that was one week ago because I was in Italy for my bike fitting with a new bike. I was there for one day and after two hours of training I think, one guy got so close me. I managed to stay on the bike because I’m a professional, it is my job, but I’m sure if someone else was in that situation, for sure they would crash.
PEZ: You’re still a happy guy?
Yeah. For sure. I want to enjoy my every day of my life. We are not here for a long time. I want to enjoy every moment, negative and positive because during our life there can be a lot of trouble, there are a lot of negative periods, but, okay, we need to keep serenity everyday.
PEZ: Good luck and thanks again.
Okay, See you next year.
The start of another year