The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.
If there’s anywhere in Europe right now to be in lockdown, perhaps it’s Switzerland. So far, health authorities have issued a quarantine “light,” which allows the public to go outside for fresh air so long as they take the personal responsibility of social distancing and shelter at home.
There are dozens of top WorldTour pros that live in Switzerland, with many based in and around Lugano in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino. Among them is Enrico Gasparotto (NTT Pro Cycling). A pro since 2005, the Italian has seen his spring classics campaign thrown upside down. Like everyone else, he’s hunkering down, waiting to see when racing resumes.
Location: Lugano, Switzerland
What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?
Here in Switzerland the government cares about the freedom of people. Unlike in Spain or Italy, here we can go outside, if we respect the distance. It’s very important mentally. In Switzerland, they are very good at respecting the rules. We can also train on the bike, riding alone, of course. I live along the lake about seven kilometers from Lugano, and I have a nice view of the lake. I am lucky to spend these days in a kind of quarantine like we have here.
What races were you planning to do that have been canceled or postponed?
This period from late March into April are the months that I like most during the season. Obviously, the Ardennes classics are the most important for me, and now I will miss all of them. I only raced once at the Saudi Tour, and I crashed and had to stop early, so I have only raced three days all year. I was 20 days at altitude on Teide in Spain, and the condition was very good for this important classics period.
What is your motivation for training right now?
To be honest, until last weekend, I was still very focused. I was doing proper training, with full efforts, because I wanted to keep my condition. Then last Sunday was my birthday [March 22], so I decided to take a week off. We are so many months, all over the world at races and training camps, so now I am doing the things that I normally cannot do, like the clean the house. I am here, with my wife, and two cats.
What are you doing today? Are you training?
Today I am relaxing, sitting here on my patio, and enjoying the sun with a nice view of the lake. We have to accept the situation as it is, and be thankful that we are healthy and safe. That is the most important thing.
What are you going to work on?
Cyclists like to program everything. For me, I like to have the entire year mapped out. Now it’s a new situation, and I have to deal with that. I am trying to create a new daily routine here in Switzerland. I have breakfast, I ride for maybe two hours, have lunch or maybe do some core work. I think it’s easier right now to stay focused on the small things, and not think too much about the big things. Normally, I am a rider who likes to look at the big picture, but I need to forget that and be more focused on the simple things. Right now, the government lets us ride outside. I want to enjoy that while I can, because it helps me a lot to not get too stressed out about how things are in the world right now.
What indoor gear are you using?
I am using a Tacx Neo. Zwift is a partner with our team, so we have some unique training programs, and organizing group rides when we can all train together from our homes. We did one Friday, and the feedback is that everyone enjoyed it. It’s a good way to stay as a unit. Cycling is about being a team, and now everyone is locked away inside of our homes. This is a good way to stay together and keep thinking like a team.
How are you communicating with friends and family?
I have some teammates who also live nearby here in Lugano — Giacomo Nizzolo and Domenico Pozzovivo — so we stay in touch. I am from Friuli, in Italy, and it’s a region with good wine. I moved to Switzerland in 2010, but my parents still live there. They are not so young anymore, but luckily I was able to teach my father how to use WhatsApp. We use technology to explain to our parents about the situation now. They are of an older generation, and it’s difficult for them to understand why it is so dangerous to go outside. Older people think that they survived World War II that they are unbeatable. We keep saying to them, ‘papa, mama, stay home and take care.’
Have you received any helpful advice?
We are trying to help each other to stay calm and understand the situation. The most frightening thing is something happening to my parents. Many of the borders are closed and there are no flights. We could not be there to help them. If there was a funeral, in Italy, they are not allowing anyone to attend. When I think about that, it makes me scared. The team is doing a good job of keeping everyone busy and motivated.
When do you think you’ll race again?
Right now, it is not looking like we race until June or maybe July. No one knows. Maybe it will be even longer. One thing I worry about is our freedom to move from one country to another. Right now, the rules are different from in every country. Even if the quarantine is lifted, I think it will still be a long time before everything returns to normal. You cannot just open the prison and let all the inmates run away, because if you do it too quickly, you will have the same problem again. Maybe if we have a Tour de Suisse it might be only with riders who live in Switzerland. That would be a very good field. Sport is important, but the health and economy are more important right now.