6 Apr 2022

Pello Bilbao wins on home turf

At the end of the third stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, 14 riders were left to sprint for the win. After a series of attacks in the finale of the stage, Pello Bilbao still had something left in the tank to cross the finish line first thanks to a well-timed sprint, celebrating a victory on what is his home turf.

Many pundits consider the Tour of the Basque Country as one of the hardest one-week stage races. There are no flat stages in the Northeast of Spain, the road surfaces are often rough and bumpy, and the weather can get pretty wild in April as well. As for the 61st edition of the Itzulia, as the locals call the Tour of the Basque Country, Pello Bilbao was the designated captain for the overall of Team Bahrain Victorious. For the mountains, he could rely on the assistance of the likes of Gino Mäder, Hermann Pernsteiner and Luis Leon Sanchez. To help on flatter sections, Yukiya Arashiro, Domen Novak and Edoardo Zambanini were part of the team’s line-up as well. The race started with a short 7.51-kilometre individual time trial on a hilly course. Finishing the stage in 17th, Pello Bilbao managed to limit his time loss to stage winner Primoz Proglic to 29 seconds. As for the 2nd stage, four early attackers were riding in the race lead for a long time. In fact, the last of these riders only was caught with 500 meters to go. The ensuing sprint for the stage win was contested by an almost complete peloton.

The 3rd stage of the race leading from Llodio to Amurrio featured a lot more climbing and two cat2 and three cat3 climbs along the route. Early on, a strong three-rider breakaway went up the road and managed to build a sizable lead. Back in the peloton, most of the pace-setting was done by Jumbo Visma and Ineos Grenadiers. When the breakaway fell apart, the lead of Cristian Rodriguez as the last remaining attacker started to drop quickly. At the same time, the speed of the chasing group went up so drastically that Pello Bilbao ended up on his own and with no more teammates for support. The Basque rider’s reaction was to go on the attack repeatedly. But the other riders in the group of GC contenders would not give him any leeway and marked his moves swiftly. After the last attack had been neutralised, Pello Bilbao changed his tactics, opting for the rear wheel of Julian Alaphilippe instead. The last hundred meters of the stage featured a slight ascent, and the Basque rider of Team Bahrain Victorious managed to beat the reigning World champ in a thrilling sprint to the line.

1. Pello Bilbao, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 4:35.24 hours
2. Julian Alaphilippe, FRA, st
3. Aleksandr Vlasov, ROC, st

Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency