Two more podium finishes at Giro d'Italia
The riders of Team Bahrain-McLaren showed some courageous riding throughout the two mountain stages in the Dolomites. Hermann Pernsteiner finished in 2nd at the end of the 17th stage and Pello Bilbao rode to a 3rd place in the Queen’s stage over the Stelvio, putting himself back into contention for the overall standings.
The stage win of Jan Tratnik in San Daniele del Friuli seems to have worked as an initial impetus for the riders of Team Bahrain-McLaren at this year’s Giro d’Italia. The 17th stage served up almost 5000 vertical meters of ascending, spread over four long climbs and 60 kilometers. Early on a group 19 riders took charge of things, with Hermann Pernsteiner being the only rider of his team to make it into the breakaway. Being nine and a half minutes in arrears of the Maglia Rosa, he was the best-placed rider in the overall standings in this breakaway, and with 80 kilometers to go he had moved up to 3rd in the virtual standings, with the leader’s jersey seemingly getting into reach. A few of the lesser climbers attacked early on in the finale, while Hermann Pernsteiner was focussing on the strong climbers instead. He only reacted when Ben O’Connor accelerated. While the Austrian could not catch up with this rider, he managed to drop his last companion, thus arriving in Madonna di Campiglio in 2nd and moving up from 15th to 11th in the overall standings.
As Team Bahrain-McLaren’s captain for the overall standings, Pello Bilbao got to save his energies on Wednesday’s first Dolomites stage. On the next day, a formidable challenge was waiting with a total of 5847 vertical meters of climbing and the legendary Stelvio as the Cima Coppi of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Team Bahrain-McLaren kept its powder dry for the opening phases of this stage. The day’s breakaway only took shape halfway into the stage, and no rider in red, papaya and black made it into this 15-rider group. The fight for the overall standings and the Maglia Rosa erupted on the endless slopes of the Stelvio. Race leader Joao Almeida started to fade halfway into the climb and finished the stage in a chase group with Hermann Pernsteiner. Pello Bilbao on the other hand could rely on the help of Domen Novak for much of the Stelvio climb. While he could not keep up with his fastest rivals, he picked up and dropped a couple of riders on the way to the Stelvio summit. The Basque rider crossed the Cima Coppi one and a half minutes behind the race leaders, and this gap remained the same on the long descent.
Bilbao managed to cut this deficit in half on the final climb to the Laghi di Cancano and crossed the finish line in 3rd, conceding 46 seconds to stage winner Jay Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart. All other riders on the other hand lost considerable time to the Basque rider, who moved up to 4th in the overall standings but more importantly reduced his deficit to the race leader to 1.19 minutes. Finishing the stage in 9th, Hermann Pernsteiner scored another top10 result for the team and moved up another spot to 10th in the overall standings as well. Just like Pello Bilbao for large parts of the Stelvio climb, Hermann Pernsteiner could rely on the help of Domen Novak on the way to the finish. The young Slovenian delivered a great performance, sacrificing himself for Team Bahrain-McLaren and still finishing the stage in 12th. As a reward for the oustanding performances of these three riders, Team Bahrain-McLaren moved up from 5th to 2nd in the teams’ standings.
The start of this year’s Vuelta a España looked a lot less rosy for Team Bahrain-McLaren. As the team’s designated captain for the overall standings, Wout Poels lost more than a minute at the end of the two first stages - but the time deficit was smaller at the end of the second stage. To add to the misery, Matej Mohoric crashed on wet and narrow roads in the finale of the second stage, descending towards the finish in Lekunberri. Mohoric suffered a scapula fracture, and despite finishing the stage he had no choice but to drop out of the race. One rider down, Team Bahrain-McLaren focussed on protecting Wout Poels, and the Dutch climber showed a much better performance in the hard finale to La Laguna Negra de Vinuesa. The longer the climb went on and the steeper the ramps got, the better Poels seemed to go. In the uphill sprint he only had to let three riders go, showing obvious signs of improvement with a 4th place.
103RD GIRO D’ITALIA
STAGE 17: BASSANO DEL GRAPPA - MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, 203KM
1. Ben O’Connor, AUS, in 5:50.59 hours
2. Hermann Pernsteiner, AUT/Team Bahrain-McLaren, + 0.31
3. Thomas De Gendt, BEL, + 1.10
STAGE 18: PINZOLO - LAGHI DI CANCANO, 207KM
1. Jay Hindley, AUS, in 6:03.03 hours
2. Tao Geoghegan Hart, GBR, st
3. Pello Bilbao, ESP/Team Bahrain-McLaren, + 0.46
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 18 STAGES:
1. Ineos Grenadiers, GBR, in 233:28.48 hours
2. Team Bahrain-McLaren, BAH, + 28.01
3. Team Sunweb, GER, + 28.37