Stage win for Pello Bilbao in Down Under
The finale of the Tour Down Under's third stage featured two climbs. Pello Bilbao paced himself perfectly on the last climb, closed the gap to two late attackers as they crested the hill and sprinted to a narrow win in Campbelltown. Thus the Basque rider scored the second stage win for Team Bahrain Victorious and moved up to 2nd in the overall standings.
At the end of the second stage, the riders of Team Bahrain Victorious had been caught by surprise and missed out on the decisive attack. As for the third stage of the Tour Down Under, they were looking to make amends, and the profile of this stage, which was pretty short at 116.8 kilometres, looked perfect for doing just that. From the start, the race headed up Ashton Hill, and the finale featured two climbs of the first category with first Checker Hill and then the Corkscrew. More importantly, the distance from the summit of the Corkscrew climb that is very step in its middle sections, to the finish line in Campbelltown was less than six kilometres. And this distance was covered in a fast and technical descent. This profile looked tailor-made for late attacks and for a rider like Pello Bilbao, who is a strong climber and one of the fastest descenders in today's pro cycling peloton.
As agreed upon before the stage, the riders of Team Bahrain Victorious gave it all to pilot their GC captain to the foot of the final climb in a favourable position. With Simon Yates and Jay Vine two co-favourites used the steepest ramps with gradients exceeding 15 percent for their attack, and no one could latch onto their wheels right away. Pello Bilbao opted for his own pace and made good use of the fact that the climb got more mellow towards the top to close the gap to the two race leaders and dive into the descent with them. As both Vine and Yates had big ambitions for the overall, this trio cooperated nicely. On the finishing straight Pello Bilbao surprised his fellow attackers with a long sprint that was good enough to win the stage.
Thanks to this victory and the bonifications that came with it, Pello Bilbao moved up to 2nd in the overall standings of the Tour Down Under. «After yesterday's stage, the entire team was a bit disappointed since we had lost important seconds. So we were all the more determined to make the best of today's stage. The short but steep Corkscrew climb was ideal for my strengths, as was the following fast descent to the finish. I had to dig deep to make it back to Yates and Vine before the climb crested, but from there, I knew that my chances to win a three-up sprint were pretty good. This stage win is as important for Team Bahrain Victorious as it is for our Sports Director Neil Stephens. After all, we are riding in his backyard this week», Pello Bilbao commented at the finish.
The next two days will be decisive for the overall victory at the Tour Down Under, and both remaining stages end uphill. While the riders face an ascending finishing straight in Willunga that also could see sprinters in the mix for the stage win, the finish atop Mount Lofty is a lot more demanding and a worthy stage for a thrilling fight for the overall win. There's no lack of suspense as the first three riders on GC are separated by a scant 16 seconds.
23RD SANTOS TOUR DOWN UNDER, STAGE 3: NORWOOD - CAMPBELLTOWN, 116.8KM
1. Pello Bilbao, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 2:48.10 hours
2. Simon Yates, GBR, st
3. Jay Vine, AUS, st
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 3:
1. Jay Vine, AUS, in 10:32.50 hours
2. Pello Bilbao, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.15
3. Simon Yates, GBR, + 0.16