11 July 2023

Pello Bilbao dedicates first Tour de France stage win to Gino Mader

11 July 2023

Pello Bilbao took his first career Tour de France stage win from a breakaway in Issoire and dedicated the victory to his late team-mate Gino Mader.

Bilbao beat Georg Zimmermann to the line as six riders made it to the finish to contest the stage win, sparking emotional scenes as he and his Bahrain Victorious team remembered Mader, who died aged 26 following a high-speed crash at the Tour de Suisse last month.

The main peloton came to the line a little under three minutes later with Jonas Vingegaard retaining the yellow jersey and his 17-second advantage over Tadej Pogacar, but Bilbao’s win saw him move up to fifth overall.

Following Mader’s death, Bilbao had pledged to replicate the Swiss rider’s charitable gesture – donating one euro to environmental causes for every rider he finishes ahead of on each stage, also promising to double the donation if he won the stage.

And in his podium interview, the Basque rider said the memory of Mader was “the only reason” for his win.

He said: “It was hard to prepare the last two weeks with him in mind, but staying with my family at home helped me a lot, just to keep calm, be positive and put all my positive energy to try to do something nice in the Tour.

“I wanted to do it in the first Basque stages, that was so special for me but it was not possible so I just waited for my moment. I was maybe thinking my position in the overall was going to be a problem but I decided to make an all-in move and in the end it was the right movement.

“My first victory in the Tour in 13 years as a pro is such a special moment for me.”

The 167km stage from Vulcania through the Massif Central looked custom-designed for a breakaway, but things were never so simple on a day when the attacks raged from the start to the finish.

My first victory in the Tour in 13 years as a pro is such a special moment for me

Vingegaard and Pogacar were both involved in some of the early moves, splitting the main peloton, before 14 riders eventually got away.

But it was only occasionally a cohesive group. Krists Neilands launched an attack at the foot of the final climb and crested it with an advantage of 30 seconds, but that tumbled on the descent towards town and he was caught by a chasing group of five with three kilometres left.

Bilbao felt confident he was the fastest and let Zimmerman move to the front before launching his sprint with a couple of hundred metres left.

“With cold blood I let Zimmermann make his sprint and I went on the wheel, then it was just full gas for the last 200 metres thinking of nothing,” he said.

“I crossed the line and I just put out all the energy inside of me and remembered the reason for this victory, a special one – for Gino.”

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