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Pello Bilbao (Astana) took the win into L’Aquila with a well-timed escape from his breakaway companions with 1.5km remaining in the Giro d’Italia’s seventh stage.
Bilbao was part of a 12-man move that went clear across the 185-km stage. He countered an attack from Jose Rojas (Movistar) and held his gap ahead of a charging Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), who did the bulk of the chasing, and Tony Gallopin (AG2R-La Mondiale). Gallopin outsprinted Formolo at the line to take second place.
“It’s difficult to describe how I feel right now. I’ve been trying for so many years to try to win a stage in a Grand Tour,” Bilbao said. “I’m often working for the big leaders on this team, but today was a chance to ride for the victory.”
The stage along the Adriatic coast and then into the Apennines was one made for a breakaway, particularly after a first week full of long, lumpy stages. But everyone wanted to be in the move, which didn’t fully form until halfway through the stage. Once it did, the gap only opened to just over two minutes. It was down to just a minute with 10km to go.
“I didn’t target the stage victory today,” Bilbao said. “It’s all been improvised. Dario Cataldo had to make the breakaway. At some point, with all attacks going on, I thought I had to start thinking of following the moves too as we preferred to have a rider at the front. We ended up being two of us with Andrey Zeits and it’s been a psychological battle for the stage win, not only a question of legs. I found the right moment to go, I didn’t look behind.”
The difficult stage also saw the abandonment of Fernando Gaviria, Sascha Modolo, and Laurens de Plus.
1) BILBAO Pello, Astana Pro Team – 4:06:27
2) GALLOPIN Tony, AG2R La Mondiale – 0:05
3) FORMOLO Davide, BORA – hansgrohe- same time
4) HAMILTON Lucas, Mitchelton-Scott – 0:09
5) CATTANEO Mattia, Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec – same time
6) ROJAS José Joaquín, Movistar Team – 0:30
7) HENAO Sebastián, Team INEOS – 0:48
8) PEDRERO Antonio, Movistar Team – 1:01
9) MADOUAS Valentin, Groupama – FDJ – 1:07
10) VENDRAME Andrea, Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec – same time