Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) pulled off an impressive Tour de France GC raid on Tuesday, winning from the breakaway on stage 10, and rising to fifth overall.
The Spaniard was part of a five-rider group that chased Israel-Premier Tech’s Krists Neilands in the closing kilometres. Once the catch was made, he reacted quickly to attacks, and launched his own race-winning sprint with 200m to go.
Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) finished second, with Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citröen) in third.
“I just wanted to make the right group,” Bilbao said after the stage. “We needed to go full in the front, everyone was on the limit, Neilands did an impressive attack. I think he was the strongest one but he spent a lot of energy.
“In the last 3km, I knew I was the fastest man in the group, so I just took control.”
In his post-race interview, the Bahrain Victorious rider pointed to the Ride For Gino tribute on his jersey, in memory of Gino Mäder who died last month. “I crossed the line and I just put out all the anger I had inside and remembered the reason of this victory,” he said, his voice cracking. “A special one. For Gino.”
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) continues to hold the yellow jersey, with his 17-second advantage to Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) unchanged.
How it happened
With fresh legs aplenty after Monday’s rest day, the racing began at a relentless pace from the flag drop in Vulcania. Immediately, the sprinters dropped out the back, stage hunters peeled off the front, and the GC teams frantically policed attacks. The peloton was left shredded, gasping in the 40°C heat.
The electric start took David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich) by surprise, with both Frenchmen losing the wheel in the first 20km. The gap from them to the peloton stretched out to around two minutes, before they were towed back into contention by their teammates and the French public breathed a sigh of relief.
It would take almost 60km of full-tilt racing before the mood settled and the breakaway formed. Initially composed of seven riders, the group doubled around the stage’s midway point, with Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step), Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), O’Connor and Bilbao among the biggest names present.
With 85km to go, Esteban Chaves (EF Education-EasyPost) sprung out of the front group on the fourth of five categorised climbs. His attack, however, was short-lived, and he rejoined his breakaway companions.
In a similar vein, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) shot out of the peloton with 45km remaining, threatening to spoil the breakaway’s day. The pace, however, proved too high to bridge across, and the life-long rivals were reabsorbed by the bunch.
Up ahead, Neilands tried his luck from range. The Latvian initially tried a two-pronged attack with Alaphilippe, before wriggling away himself, and stretching out a 30-second advantage. He led solo over the final climb, the Côte de la Chapelle-Marcousse, but was reeled in with 3km to go by a five-rider group spearheaded by Bilbao.
The Spaniard’s kick is well known in the peloton, so it was no surprise when the other leaders tried to disrupt a sprint finish. O’Connor attacked first, but Bilbao latched himself onto the AG2R rider’s wheel. Then came Zimmermann’s attempt, and Bilbao did the same again.
The Bahrain Victorious rider then took charge on the front, leading out his own sprint which he unleashed in the final 200m. Nobody else could follow.
Thanks to the almost three minutes accrued by the breakaway, the victory propelled Bilbao up the general classification, from eleventh at the start of the day to fifth. He now sits 12 seconds off fourth-placed Carlos Rodríguez, with the Alps beckoning.
Tour de France, stage 10: Vulcania > Issoire (167.2km)
1. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, in 3-52-34
2. Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty 3. Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citröen 4. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel-Premier Tech 5. Esteban Chaves (Col) EF Education-EasyPost, all at same time 6. Antonio Pedrero (Esp) Movistar, at 3s 7. Mattias Skjelmose (Den) Lidl-Trek 8. Michal Kiwatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers, both at 27s 9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic, at 30s 10. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Soudal-Quick Step, at 32s
General classification after stage 10
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, in 42-33-33
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 17s 3. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-40 4. Carlos Rodríguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-22 5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 4-34 6. Adam Yates (GBr) UAE Team Emirates, at 4-39 7. Simon Yates (GBr) Jayco AlUla, at 4-44 8. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-26 9. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 6-01 10. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 6-45