Pello Bilbao takes first yellow jersey in Tour of the Alps
Apr 16 2018 09:12 pm CET

Pello Bilbao takes first yellow jersey in Tour of the Alps
Pello Bilbao takes first yellow jersey in Tour of the Alps
Image: Tour of the Alps logo

Pello Bilbao (Astana) has won the first stage of the Tour of the Alps. He attacked in the descent of the final climb and held off the chasers, taking the first leader’s jersey. Luis Leon Sanchez finished second and confirmed Astana’s dominance in the final few kilometres.

The first stage of the Tour of the Alps, previously known as the Giro del Trentino, started in Arco with 140 riders. Among them was George Bennett, despite being hit by a car on Sunday. "It could have been a lot worse, I’m lucky. Now let’s try to do a good race," he commented to the organisation before the race.

The stage itself covered 134 kilometres and two categorised climbs. The Valico di Andalo, a third category climb after 50km, and the Serrada, a second category climb with the summit at 6 kilometres from the finish in Folgaria. Those last six kilometres went downhill before a slightly uphill finish.

After 10 kilometres a breakaway of 9 riders managed to escape, after many earlier attempts proved to be unsuccessful. Today’s brave men included Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Alexejs Saramotins (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alexey Ribalkin (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Davide Ballerini (Androni-Sidermec-Bottechia), Mathias Krizek (Team Felbermayr), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo), Joan Bou Company (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Marco Friedrich (Tirol Cycling Team) and Alex Turrin (Willier-Triestina-Selle Italia).

The gap stayed around two minutes to a peloton led by Team Sky and Groupama-FDJ for their respective leaders, Chris Froome and Thibaut Pinot. Berhane took the points on the Valico di Andalo, before Krizek and Ballerini. In the decent towards the feeding zone the gap increased to 3 minutes and it was with this advantage that they started the ascent of the Serrada, a 19,2 km long climb, averaging at 5,5%. By this time Rybalkin and Friedrich had been dropped from the breakaway. Eenkhoorn won intermediate sprint before Saramotins and Ballerini, thereby taking the intermediate points jersey.

The lead group thinned out on the final ascent of the day, while Groupama-FDJ set a high pace in the peloton and reduced the gap to about 15 seconds with 6 kilometres of climbing to go. Krizek felt the peloton approaching and attacked, leaving his fellow escapees behind. Almost simultaneously Sebastian Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ) attacked, leaving Krizek behind. Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF) countered and dropped Reichenbach immediately.

The Frenchman was joined by Nikita Stalnov (Astana) and together they started chasing, as Team Sky set the pace in the peloton. With 10km to go Pinot attacked and joined the chasers. Unfortunately for Pinot, his teammate couldn’t help him for long and Sky closed the gap quickly. Meanwhile, Ciccone gradually extended his lead to about 20 seconds towards the summit of the Serrada.

When Froome attacked just before the summit only three riders could follow: Pinot, Bennett and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain Merida). They closed the gap to Ciccone, who did take the KOM points and may wear the mountains jersey on Tuesday. Astana closed the gap in the descent with 5 kilometers to go, and they still had 5 riders in the main group going to the finish. They tried to make the best out of these numbers and tried to attack in the descent, Pello Bilbao succeeded and broke clear.

He started the last uphill stretch of 800 metres with a 10 second advantage over the group of GC contenders, where Astana protected Bilbao with 4 other riders. Ivan Ramiro Sosa (Androni-Sidermec-Bottechia) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) counter attacked but they couldn’t close the gap. Bilbao took the victory, while Sanchez completed the Astana success. Sosa completed the podium, and Pinot won the sprint of the chasing group before Froome.

by Siebe Kok




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