Hardly anyone believed Kasper Asgreen's chances of overtaking Mathieu van der Poel in the Tour of Flanders sprint last Sunday. No one except him and his girlfriend, Quebec cyclist Gabrielle Pilote Fortin.
"Kasper, when he's got poop on his heart or something to prove, it's really impossible to beat him." If he has an idea in mind, he will go through with it. This is what makes its strength. "
During the final of the Tour of Flanders, last Sunday, Gabrielle Pilote Fortin exchanged texts with her agent, the same as her boyfriend, Kasper Asgreen. The Danish champion delivered a duel to Mathieu van der Poel, big favorite of this mythical classic played in Belgium.
Commentators were adamant: Asgreen didn't stand a chance in the sprint against the Dutchman. In an identical scenario, six months earlier, van der Poel had taken the measure of Wout van Aert, another exceptional finisher.
1200 km away, in the mountains of Andorra, Gabrielle Pilote Fortin could no longer keep still in front of her computer. If her lover had refrained from attacking in the last kilometers, it is because he believed in his burst of speed, she wrote to her agent.
“Kasper isn't arrogant, but he's confident in his abilities and he knows himself really well. When I saw him arrive in the last kilometer with van der Poel, I said to myself: it's clear, he wants to show everyone that he can sprint too. "
PHOTO DAVID PINTENS, FRANCE-PRESS AGENCY
Kasper Asgreen is ahead of Mathieu van der Poel at the finish line of the Tour of Flanders on April 4th.
Nonetheless, when the Dutch champion shook his head and stopped pedaling 50m from the line, thereby yielding the victory to Asgreen, the Quebecer couldn't get over it.
“I was flipping! », She smiled the next day, joined to the Andorran apartment that she borrowed temporarily from Montreal cyclist James Piccoli. “A girl all alone screaming in the house… I almost knocked over the chair behind me. The neighbors must have wondered what was going on! "
In theory, Pilote Fortin should have been racing in the Tour of Flanders, like last fall. But a conflict between her agent, Andrew McQuaid, and her Spanish team, Massi-Tactic, has deprived her of a start since the start of the year, explains the 27-year-old.
PHOTO GUILLEM CASANOVA BOSCH, PROVIDED BY GABRIELLE PILOTE FORTIN
Quebec cyclist Gabrielle Pilote Fortin
She therefore followed the men's race from a distance, with the heart rate probably as high as if she were in the saddle.
“When van der Poel attacked in Old Quaremont, you saw in Kasper's face that he was really on the edge. I don't know how he managed to rebuild the bridge. We are talking about the strength of the mind. It was really just in the head that it was played out. "
Already second in 2019, Asgreen announced his colors by winning the E3 Grand Prix solo in Harelbeke on March 26. The fact remains that for the Tour of Flanders, the local press only had them for the royal trio of the two “Van” and the world champion Julian Alaphilippe, the Dane's teammate at Deceuninck – Quick-Step.
Pilote Fortin believes that the reserved personality of his “typically Danish” boyfriend has helped keep him in the shadows. “People weren't expecting it. For me it's so different because I talk to him every day. I had known for a week that he was going to win. "
His only regret is having experienced the event from a distance.
This “monumental” victory is timely. Both for Asgreen, in contract renegotiation, and for the couple, separated since February due to the vagaries of COVID-19. Pilot Fortin had to leave the Schengen area for three months when his tourist visa in Denmark expired. Because of the mandatory quarantine in Canada, she moved to Andorra, where her boyfriend met her on Monday evening.
While waiting for her first competition, probably the Vuelta CV Feminas in Valencia, on April 18, she is keeping in shape. Riding with the winner of the Tour of Flanders is a good way to achieve this. “Training with Kasper is like racing. "
Occasionally, she joins him at Quick-Step camps, like in February. “The only rule is if I get let go by the guys and I can't follow behind the car, they don't wait for me. But it's rare for that to happen. If I'm really on my feet, I can hang on to the car. "
PHOTO FROM INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT @GABPILOTE
Gabrielle Pilote Fortin with her boyfriend Kasper Asgreen during a recovery outing in May 2020
The Canadian and the Dane met during an internship in Calpe, Spain, in January 2019. She was riding with Alaphilippe, a friend she knew when she started out in France with the Futuroscope team, so that she was 19. One day, Asgreen joined them.
“We spoke 15 minutes on the bike and he invited me for a drink two days later. In June, we moved in together! "
A serious accident
Pilote Fortin got her love of cycling from her parents, two enthusiasts who gave her her first road bike when she was 8 years old. Nineteenth at the 2011 World Junior Championships, the native of Neuville, near Quebec, moved to Europe in 2014. Double Canadian road champion U23, she had the debut of the Women's WorldTour under the colors of Cervélo-Bigla.
In March 2017, she suffered a serious accident during a classic in Belgium. Unconscious for 30 minutes, she spent three days in intensive care after suffering three facial fractures and a concussion.
Returning to competition three months later, she considered retiring at the end of the year. A former sports director, however, convinced her to return to service the following year with WNT-Rotor, another WorldTour team. “I missed cycling in Europe, so I didn't hesitate. [The accident] had no impact on the bike. I was no more fearful. "
With WNT, she mainly had a supporting role with teammates like Lisa Brennauer, world time trial champion in 2014.
"The role of road captain suits me really well", notes the one who describes herself as a "sprinter-climber". “I share the information well. I understand the races well. In theory, I'm good at calling shots. I never really got the chance to run as a Nominee Leader. "
Her move to Denmark forced her to leave WNT, whose sponsor requires runners to live in Germany. His move to Massi-Tactic, a more modest formation, was to provide him with better opportunities. With the pandemic, competitions have become scarce. She still finished eighth in the La Périgord Ladies race in August.
Since participating in the Vuelta in November, the 27-year-old has not received a salary from his team, which also includes young Quebecer Olivia Baril.
Resigned, Pilote Fortin is already thinking about his future. In this regard, her boyfriend's victory makes "a big difference", even for her.
“Then it's up to you to talk to people,” she adds. We're not going to lie to each other, it's not like I won a lot of races either. "
Beyond the bike, Gabrielle Pilote Fortin has several advantages in her bag. Starting with two bachelor's degrees, one in communication, the other in administration (marketing concentration), which she did remotely in parallel to her career.
His training serves him well. She powers social media and takes care of brand relations for professional runners. She also creates content for PowerWatts drive systems.
Pilote Fortin is also an accomplished artist whose paintings can be seen on her Instagram page. “I sell it, I make contracts when I have the time, which does not happen often! I touch a bit of everything. "
Next year, she fully intends to be on the starting line of the Tour of Flanders. And she has a dream: “Imagine if we both won the race. It would be crazy! "