12 Jul 2023

Tour stage win for Pello Bilbao - and Gino

Nine stages into the 110th edition of the Tour de France, the tally of Team Bahrain Victorious stood at three podium results. Right after the first rest day, Pello Bilbao made good use of his skills and strength to win the 10th stage in a sprint of the breakaway - a win for Gino.

Team Bahrain Victorious lined up for the 10th stage of the Tour de France with yellow helmets and bib numbers. After all, the team had jumped to the lead of the team classification the day before the rest day. While the stage from Volcania to Issoire may not have been particularly long, the undulating terrain made for a tough day, offering plenty of opportunities for attackers. Temperatures exceeding 30° C and a rough road surface added to the difficulty. The fight for a place in the breakaway broke loose right from the start, with Matej Mohoric, Mikel Landa, Jack Haig and Pello Bilbao all riding far up front in the peloton and taking turns trying their hand and reacting to attacks. It took more than an hour of frantic racing for a 14-rider breakaway to take shape in two consecutive waves. And Pello Bilbao was the best-placed rider on GC in this group.

The peloton would never let the gap to the breakaway grow far above the three-minute mark; however, as the finale approached, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel attacked from the peloton in a bid to bridge over to the breakaway, but they would never make it. Up front, Krists Neilands attacked his companions twice in a bid for the stage win. While he was unsuccessful, the breakaway fragmented as the pace went up. In this situation, Pello Bilbao was one of the strongest riders at the sharp end of the race. He did not skimp on his effort and was a key player in bringing back Neilands with just 3.2 kilometres to go, leading four other riders back into contention in his wake. Deep into the finale, Ben O'Connor was the first rider to try an attack, and as soon as Bilbao had brought him back, Georg Zimmermann was the next rider to accelerate - but the Basque rider of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS was fully alert and countered both moves.

"During the final three kilometres, I decided to focus on Georg Zimmermann as he was likely to be the fastest of my companions, and that was the right decision. This Tour de France stage win is such a special moment for me. It's been a long time coming, 13 years, to be precise. I already had tried in the finale of stage 2 in my native Basque Country but was brought back, and now I finally got to celebrate that stage win at the Tour de France. And yes: this stage win is for Gino as well", an emotional Pello Bilbao said in the stage winner's interview. In doing so, he pointed at the #RideForGino design element added to the jerseys and helmets of Team Bahrain Victorious to honour their Swiss team that had died way too early. As the peloton - or what had remained of it after a hard and hot day - conceded almost 3 minutes to the day's stage winner, Bilbao moved up from 11th to 5th on GC.   
1. Pello Bilbao, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 3:52.34 hours
2. Georg Zimmermann, GER, st
3. Ben O’Connor, AUS, st

Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency