Exceeded expectations at the Giro d'Italia
Team Bahrain-McLaren lined up for this year’s Giro d’Italia with the ambition to win a stage. Not only did the team achieve this goal, but it exceeded it with Pello Bilbao in 5th and Hermann Pernsteiner in 10th of the overall standings. As for the Vuelta a España, Wout Poels got better and better as the first week of the race proceeded.
The conclusive three days of the Giro d’Italia brought some long hours in the saddle and two more top10 results for Team Bahrain-McLaren. Due to strong rain and a protest staged by a large number of riders, the 19th stage was shortened substantially, and the riders of the team contained themselves seeking some shelter in the peloton while a breakaway of 14 riders fought for the stage win. The penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia had to be shortened as well. This time this was caused not by bad weather but by restrictions to enter France due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As a consequence, the Colle dell’Agnello, the Col d’Izoard and the Montgenèvre all got scrapped from the route. Instead, the race organization sent the remaining athletes onto a changed route with no less than three ascents to the winter sports resort of Sestrière packed into the second half of the stage.
At first, a large breakaway took charge of things in this penultimate stage, and Team Bahrain-McLaren had Jan Tratnik in this group. The deeper the stage got into its finale the more it started to resemble the Queen’s stage over the Stelvio: Pello Bilbao showed a strong climbing performance but could not keep up with the pace of his strongest rivals. In the end he crossed the finish line in 7th place, conceding more time in the overall standings. As a consequence, Pello Bilbao dropped to 5th in the overalls standings in the conclusive individual time trial to Milano, losing 4th place to Joao Almeida. Another rider in red, papaya and black finished in the top10 with Hermann Pernsteiner in 10th, and Jan Tratnik scored another top10 in a stage, finishing the time trial in 10th place. In the team classification, Bahrain-McLaren finished the giro in 4th place, with all of its eight riders making it to Milano after three hard weeks.
At the Vuelta a España, Wout Poel as Team Bahrain-McLaren’s designated captain for the overall standings showed improving form throughout the first week. On the first two days, the Dutchman had lost almost three minutes on relatively short ascents to the finish line. But in the stage that ended at Aramon Formigal, Poels showed an strong performance under infernal weather conditions. He managed to keep himself in the group of favorites deep into the finale of the stage, and as a bonus he could rely on the assistance of young Colombian Santiago Buitrago. Once the top contenders launched their attacks, Poels could not keep up with Richard Carapaz but managed to drop Primoz Roglic. Thanks to this performance, Wout Poels moved up to 11th in the overall standings on the day before the first rest day of the Vuelta a España. Unfortunately the team has already lost two experienced riders with Matej Mohoric and Grega Bole.