Pello Bilbao takes sensation stage 10 win to move into top 5 – Tour de France

Tour de France 2023

Stage 10

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) claimed the first stage victory of his career in Issoire on stage 10 of the Tour de France.

The cagey Spaniard made the day’s breakaway, helped chase down a dangerous attack from Israel Premier-Tech’s Krists Neilands and then out-sprinted Georg Zimmerman (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) to take the win.

It has been a long time coming for the 33-year-old Basque rider and an emotional victory not only because it was his first, but because of the recent death of his teammate Gino Mäder which rocked the team last month.

“A first victory in the Tour after 13 years, it’s such a special moment for me,” Bilbao said.

“I crossed the line and just put out all the anger I had inside, remembering the reason for this victory,” he said, pointing to the team’s special jersey emblem remembering Mäder. “It’s a special one for Gino. It was the only reason. It was hard to prepare the last two weeks with him in mind. I put all my positive energy to do something nice in the Tour.”

The Grand Départ of the Tour was on his home soil in the town eponymous with his surname, but he missed the split on stage 1. Since then, he has bided his time patiently and struck out on a viciously tough opening to the stage.

“I wanted to do something in the first stages which were special for me. It was not possible. I just waited for my moment.

Pello Bilbao hits full gas as he lunges for the line.

“We started the stage full focus – yesterday we checked the first 40km and we were expecting a hard race day after the rest day. In a critical moment, we were five teammates in the first 20 riders. I just wanted to make the right group if it was possible.”

With just 5km to go, Bilbao was in a group chasing solo leader Neilands, but patiently worked to reel him in with 3km remaining.

“Neilands did an impressive attack. I think he was the strongest one but he spent a lot of energy with a hard wind in the face,” Bilbao said. “In the back group, we collaborated and in the last 3km I knew I was probably the fastest man in the group. I took the responsibility, I closed the gap to O’Connor first, then with cold blood let Zimmermann make his sprint and got on the wheel and then went full in the last 200 metres without thinking of nothing.”

The breakaway gained 2:53 on the group containing race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), rival Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) third-placed Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) to keep the top four in the GC standings the same.

However, with the time bonus, Bilbao moved up from 11th place at 7:37 to fifth at 4:34, overtaking Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma).

The finishing times belied the intensity of the stage which only saw the breakaway truly escape halfway into the stage.

Stage 10 was a wickedly hilly 167.2 kilometre route from Vulcania to Issoire, and started with the usual flurry of attacks as the course headed up the Col de la Moréno (4.8km at 4.7%) from the drop of the flag.

Esteban Chaves climbing to the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert (1,451m).

The climb was too much for the first few attacks, but Rémi Cavagna (Soudal-QuickStep), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis), Anthon Charmig (Uno-X), Corbin Strong and Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech) formed an early group.

Just before the top of the Moréno, Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich) attacked to bridge across and stirred a hornet nest in the peloton, creating a chain reaction that rapidly sent the sprinters out the back as the yellow jersey himself Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) were part of an attack behind after only 14km of racing.

Pogačar made the move but Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tom Pidcock and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) missed out, raising the alarm bells in the peloton behind.

Cavagna continued forcing the pace and making the GC men decide how to use their bullets, while Ineos Grenadiers led the chase 50-second behind.

Finally, Vingegaard and Pogačar opted not to become anchor weights for the escape and Ben Turner was able to close the final gap to the maillot jaune with just 17 kilometres done.

Charmig led Cavagna over the top of the Col de la Moréno, but had only a slight gap over the chasing bunch, where Bilbao continued to bide his time.

On the lower slopes of the Col de Guéry (7.8km at 5%) still with 147km to go, Van Aert attacked from the chasing group sparking a massive reformation of the race situation.

The peloton passes the mythical Puy de Dôme.

The peloton caught the attackers with 6.6km still to climb, Kwiatkowski went again with Neilands, Skjelmose, Clement Champoussin (Arkéa-Samsic) and Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty).

Meanwhile, the vicious start to the stage sent Bardet and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) out the back in a chasing group and in danger of losing time.

Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) led Neilands atop Col de Guéry with the yellow jersey group hot on their heels. Neilands sat up and was replaced by Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) in the lead with Poels on the descent.

It wasn’t until the undulating approach to the intermediate sprint in Le Mont-Dore that the day’s breakaway finally began to solidify.

Bilbao, together with Esteban Chaves (EF Education-EasyPost), Kasper Asgreen (Soudal-QuickStep), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Zimmermann, Nick Schultz (Israel-Premier Tech) and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) came together with just a 14-second lead over the maillot jaune as more attacks flew from the second group on the road.

O’Connor, his GC hopes dashed in the first week, followed Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) as he attacked to go across. Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) and Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan).

Asgreen led across the intermediate sprint line as the chasers closed to within 20 seconds and in the peloton behind, Philipsen took the final point available behind the leaders in Le Mont-Dore.

GC favourites Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar remain just 17 seconds apart.

Barguil followed a surge from Chavez on the next climb, the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert but didn’t push too hard to lose their breakaway companions over the top, while Asgreen dropped back to help Alaphilippe get to the lead group.

Barguil attacked again on the next climb but Chavez mowed him down to take the points on the Côte de Saint-Victor-la-Rivière. The surge opened a bigger gap to Alaphilippe’s group and they fought for 20 kilometres before finally making contact with 86km remaining.

The race finally settled into a normal rhythm and the reformed breakaway held a steady lead of around three minutes for most of the stage.

With 55km to go, Neilands tried to go it alone as Alpecin-Deceuninck poured on the power in the chase, bringing the lead down to 2:20.

The first chase began to disintegrate behind Neilands and Chavez sensed an opportunity to bridge. Neilands led over the final climb, the Côte de la Chapelle-Marcousse, with Chavez taking the last point behind.

Neilands opened up a lead of 35 seconds as Alaphilippe, Barguil, Skjelmose and Kwiatkowski let go of the chasing group, leaving only Bilbao, Chavez, O’Connor, Zimmermann and Pedrero in pursuit of Neilands and Schlutz headed back to the peloton.

With the gap to the maillot jaune group hovering at 3:30 it looked to be going the breakaway’s way with 25km to go – it only remained to be seen what became of the leader and his poursuivants. Ineos began to scramble to keep Bilbao from overtaking Pidcock in the GC.

Bilbao dedicated a “special” win in memory of his late team-mate Giro Mader.

The Chavez group were at 20 seconds and Alaphilippe’s at 50 seconds with 20km to go, and began to reel in Neilands on the fast run-in to Issoire. The gap to Bilbao’s group was down to the single digits at the 5km to go mark, with Alaphilippe’s hopes snuffed out at 25 seconds.

The chasers could see Neilands with 4km to go and he kept looking at his legs for more power but he couldn’t hold them off and they caught him with 3km to go – but they could not relent because the gap to the next group was coming down.

Zimmermann attacked at the red kite and Bilbao was quickly on his wheel and, despite a chase back thanks to O’Connor, the Spaniard claimed the stage and the time bonus to move up in the GC.

At 179.8 kilometres, tomorrow’s 11th stage of the Tour travels from Clermont-Ferrand to Moulins. Rolling hills in the first half, predominantly flat terrain in the second.

Clermont-Ferrand, home to Rémi Cavagna, hosted its last Tour de France stage start two years ago. The race went to Lyon, where Søren Kragh Andersen soloed to triumph.

Things look promising for the sprinters this time. The route is predominantly flat. Two minor climbs are situated in the first half of the race, one in the second. The Côte de Chaptuzat (1.9 kilometres at 5%) and Côte de Mercurol (2.9 kilometres at 4.9%) are done and dusted in the first 60 kilometres before the Côte de la Croix Blanche throws in 1.6 kilometres at 5.4% with 60 kilometres to go. So the sprinters teams should be able to wrap this up fairly easy.

The finish in Moulins seems to be layed out for just that – a sprint finish. The final 1.3 kilometres are as straight as an arrow.

Stage 10 result:

  1. Pello Bilbao (ESP, Bahrain – Victorious 3:52:34
  2. Georg Zimmermann (GER, Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) +0″
  3. Ben O’Connor (AUS, AG2R Citroën Team) +0″
  4. Krists Neilands (LAT, Israel – Premier Tech) +0″
  5. Esteban Chaves (COL, EF Education-EasyPost) +0″
  6. Antonio Pedrero (ESP, Movistar Team) +3″
  7. Mattias Skjelmose (DEN, Lidl – Trek) +27″
  8. Michał Kwiatkowski (POL, INEOS Grenadiers) +27″
  9. Warren Barguil (FRA, Team Arkéa Samsic) +30″
  10. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA, Soudal – Quick Step) +32″

General Classification:

  1. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 42h 33’13”
  2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +17″
  3. Jai Hindley (AUS, Bora-Hansgrohe) +2:40″
  4. Carlos Rodriguez Cano (ESP, Ineos Grenadiers) +4:22″
  5. Pello Bilbao (ESP, Bahrain – Victorious +4:34″
  6. Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +4:39″
  7. Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +4:44″
  8. Tom Pidcock (GBR, INEOS Grenadiers) +5:26″
  9. David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama) +6:01″
  10. Sepp Kuss (USA, Jumbo-Visma) +6:45″

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