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by Shane Stokes
April 17, 2018
Bilbao takes stage 1 of the Tour of the Alps; Froome: “I’m definitely heading in the right direction”; Teuns named as BMC Racing Team leader for Flèche Wallonne; Barguil says Di Gregorio should face criminal punishment over EPO positive; Cane Creek eeWing titanium cranks conjure the spirit of Sweet Wings; Video: 2018 Amstel Gold Race – Men & Women; Video: Cycling Motivation 2018 – For indoor trainer
Less than 24 hours after Michael Valgren won the Amstel Gold Race, the Astana team landed another big win when Pello Bilbao took stage one of the Tour of the Alps. The Spaniard jumped clear after the final climb and soloed in six seconds clear of compatriot and teammates Luis Leon Sanchez, with Ivan Ramiro Sosa Cuervo (Androni-Sidermec) just behind him in third.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) led in the chase group 10 seconds back, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) fifth in his first race since Tirreno-Adriatico. He is still awaiting a decision in his salbutamol case, and is building up to the Giro d’Italia.
Bilbao noted that former teammate Michele Scarponi won the opening stage of the race last year. “My fifth pro victory has a special taste, right because of this coincidence, coming one year after the final win by ‘Scarpa’,” he said. “Michele always has a place in our hearts. He is a source of inspiration and motivation, and to repeat his feat in this Tour of the Alps debut makes it even more significant. This victory is for him, and his family.”
The 134.6 kilometre stage ran from Arco to Folgaria and included two big climbs. Nine riders went clear early on, namely Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo), Natnael Berhane (Team Dimension Data), Aleksejs Saramotins (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alex Turrin (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia), Joan Bou (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Marco Friedrich (Tirol Cycling Team), Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Matthias Krizek (Team Felbermayr Simplon Wels) and Aleksey Rybalkin (Gazprom). They worked to build a solid lead, but were reeled in on the final climb, approximately eight kilometres from the summit and 14 from the finish.
Team Sky set the pace on the climb and stopped any attackers gaining time. Froome was aggressive and dragged Pinot and several others clear, but Bilbao bridged on the descent and then pushed ahead for the stage win.