Pello Bilbao achieved a victory that was genuinely heart-wrenching as he triumphed in the tenth stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday. This happened less than four weeks after the untimely demise of his teammate from Bahrain-Victorious, Gino Mader, who was fatally injured in a crash in Switzerland.
Bilbao managed to outpace his breakaway fellows, Georg Zimmermann from Germany and the Australian, Ben O’Connor, who placed second and third respectively.
The title holder, Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark, maintained his position at the top, whilst Bilbao progressed from the eleventh to the fifth position overall. This marked Spain’s first stage win on the Tour since Omar Fraile’s victory in 2018. A surprisingly long streak that was hoped to be broken with the opening stages in Spain this year. Luckily, they didn’t have to wait too much longer.
The 33-year-old rider from the Basque region, who plans to retire at the end of this season, pledged to donate one euro (£0.85) to a local tree-planting organisation for every rider who finishes a stage after him. This continues an initiative started by Mader before his fatal crash at the Tour de Suisse on 16 June.
The stage began dramatically with Tadej Pogacar on the offensive, closely pursued by Vingegaard, while the rest of the pack struggled to keep up. Adam Yates, Pogacar’s UAE Emirates teammate, and his twin brother Simon (who are fifth and sixth overall), along with David Gaudu and Romain Bardet from France who were also in the top 10, fell behind.
They trailed the main group by two minutes, but with Gaudu’s Groupama-FDJ in the lead and the pack’s pace slowing, they rejoined before reaching the Col de la Croix Saint Robert (6km at a 6.3% incline). A breakaway group of seven, including Bilbao, formed and they were joined by another seven riders, among them was ex-world champion Julian Alaphilippe, 81km into the stage.
On the climb of Saint Victor la Riviere, Esteban Chaves attempted to go it alone but was rapidly caught as the peloton managed the gap.
On the Cote de la Chapelle Marcousse (6.5km at a 5.6% incline), Krists Neilands made a move as the breakaway group split into three. The Latvian had a 20-second lead 13 kilometres from the finish line in the sweltering 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) heat in Issoire.
However, Neilands was caught with just 3.2km to go, and it was Bilbao who cleverly outmanoeuvred a group of six to claim the final sprint.
“It’s an incredible feeling. The longer you wait for such a moment the sweeter it is when it happens. I had to win for Gino. I wanted to wait for the biggest moment to win for him. When I crossed the line it was an incredible explosion of feelings. It’s such a special Tour for me with the race having starting from home (in Bilbao). Usually, I’m quite cold-blooded but today I was very distracted, there was so much at stake.”Pello Bilbao
2023 Tour de France Stage 10 result
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