It was a strong start for Team Bahrain Victorious on the opening stage of Giro d’Italia as Pello Bilbao showed took an impressive third place.
The Grande Partenza of the 105th edition in Hungary saw the riders take on a 195km course from Budapest to a tricky final climb up to Visegrád. The 5.6km climb had an average 4.2% gradient meaning only a handful of sprinters would be fighting it out for the Maglia Rosa. The peloton had an easy day on the saddle until that finale, controlling the two-man breakaway that was brought back with 14km to go.
On the final climb, attempts of Naesen (AG2R-Citroën) and Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) to anticipate a selected sprint were unsuccessful, and as expected, few riders battled to contest the first stage win of this Giro. Among them was our climber Pello Bilbao, who is proven on fast finishes. The favourites of the day, Girmay (Intermarchè-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), accelerated in the final hundred meters alongside Ewan, who crashed right in front of our Basque rider. Bilbao finished off his sprint in 3rd position, behind the winner and first Maglia Rosa Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Girmay (Intermarchè-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), who crossed the line in 2nd place.
Pello Bilbao: “It was not easy to properly understand how I was feeling today as the stage was going relatively easy. Therefore I didn’t know how I could be during the final climb. I knew today could be a good day for me, and in the last 30 km, I rode focused on my aim. Phil gave me great support, positioning me before the right corner. In the end, I lost the position with a crash at 2 km to go, but happily, I recovered and was ready for the final attack. Taking the 3rd place in the sprint is a good way to start the Giro”.
(All pictures can be used for editorial and non-commercial usages only and are copyright @Sprintcycling @ChrisAuld @TeamBahrainVictorious)
— Simona Mazzoleni to bahraincyclingteam.com