Spain’s Pello Bilbao claimed a long-awaited Tour de France stage victory with a tactically astute breakaway victory on Stage 10.
Krists Neilands ambitious solo break looked set to pay off when the chasing group of five – including Bilbao – started playing tactical games when they should have been hunting him down with 10 km to go.
However, they eventually regained some discipline to absorb Neilands and set up a sprint finish between themselves.
Bilbao was always in pole position as the strongest sprinter in the breakaway, and after a last-ditch attack by Georg Zimmerman 1 km from the line failed to distance the Spaniard, he shot clear to jubilant celebrations on the line in Issoire.
The victory lifts the Spaniard into fifth place in the General Classification, demoting the British trio of Tom Pidcock and Adam and Simon Yates down the leaderboard.
A surprise duel early in the stage momentarily threatened to develop into a punchy back-and-forth battle between the two in what could have become a classic, but failed to materialise into any meaningful GC action.
In an emotional post-race interview, Bilbao struggled to compose himself as he dedicated his victory to Gino Mäder, his Bahrain Victorious teammate who was tragically killed during the Tour de Suisse last month at the age of 26.
“For the last 200 meters, I was thinking of nothing, and then I crossed the line and I just put out all the anger I have inside and remembered the reason for this victory, a special one for Gino.
“It was the only reason. It was hard to prepare the last two weeks with him in my mind, but my family and my kid, Martina, helped me a lot to just keep calm and positive and put all my positive energy into doing something nice [at] the Tour.
“I wanted to do it in the first few stages [in Bilbao’s native Basque country] as it was so special for me and it was not possible, but I just waited for my moment.
“My first victory at the Tour after 13 years as a professional – [it] is such a special moment for me.”
Though Bilbao will earns himself €11,000 with the stage victory, his win will also cost him €175 due to his pledge to donate €1 to deforestation causes for every rider he finishes ahead of on every stage of the Tour.
It’s a commitment he adopted in tribute to Gino Mäder, who had made a similar pledge before he passed away.
Van Aert Rumors Swirl
One of the day’s biggest talking points was the rumor that Wout van Aert – the key deputy to race leader Jonas Vingegaard – is set to depart the race tomorrow in anticipation of the birth of his second child.
The Belgian hinted as much last month, telling Het Nieuwsblad, “I keep in mind that I may have to go home at any time during the Tour. I definitely don’t want to miss the birth of our baby.”
If van Aert’s exit materializes, it will be a major blow to Vingegaard and his Jumbo-Visma team, given the Belgian’s colossal contributions to the 2022 Tour de France win and the promise of major battles to come with Pogačar in this year’s race.
Van Aert will also be somewhat disappointed with what is already being dubbed his “Tour of Not Quite”, having failed to convert strong performances into stage victories.
However, few would be critical of the decision to put family first. The memory of Gino Mäder reminds us all that there are some things more important than cycling.
Tour de France 2023: Stage 10 Results
1. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious/SPA): 3:52:34
2. Georg Zimmermann (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty/GER): Same time
3. Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroen/AUS): Same time
4. Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech/LAT): Same time
5. Jhoan Esteban Chaves (EF Education-EasyPost/COL): Same time
6. Antonio Pedrero (Movistar/SPA): + 3 seconds
7. Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek/DEN): + 27 seconds
8. Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers/POL): Same time
9. Warren Barguil (Team Arkea/FRA): + 30 seconds
10. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step/FRA): + 32 seconds
General Classification Standings After Stage 10
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma/DEN): 42:33:13
2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates/SLO): + 17 secs
3. Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe/AUS): + 2 min, 40 secs
4. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers/SPA): + 4 mins, 22 secs
5. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious/SPA): + 4 mins, 34 secs
6. Adam Yates (UAE-Emirates/GB): + 4 mins, 39 secs
7. Simon Yates (Team Jayco-AlUla/GB): + 4 mins, 44 secs
8. Thomas Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers/GB): + 5 mins, 26 secs
9. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ/FRA): + 6 mins, 01 secs
10. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma/USA): + 6 mins, 45 secs