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Despite being known as a climber, Bilbao used his fast speed to hold off sprinters Sanz and Barbero in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon






17.04.2015 @ 17:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) proved that he is more than just a climber when he took a surprise win in the first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. Originally set to ride for teammate Carlos Barbero, he turned out to be the fastest in the bunch sprint and relegated Enrique Sanz (Movistar) and Barbero to the minor podium positions to become the first leader of the three-day race.


Pello Bilbao went into the 2015 season with great ambitions after a solid showing in his first year as a Caja Rural rider when he won the Klasika Primavera. Unfortunately, he got the season off to a bad start as he suffered an injury in the Vuelta a Andalucia but he was intent on getting back to his best for his home race Vuelta al Pais Vasco.


The Basque race didn’t pan out in the way he had wanted but it proved that he had ridden himself into decent condition. Today the hard efforts paid off for the punchy climber but his first win of the year probably came in a way that he had never expected.


Bilbao is mostly known as a climber but he has also proved that he has a decent turn of speed, sprinting into the top 10 in the second stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. However, no one would have expected him to be able to beat the sprinters when today’s first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon came down to a bunch sprint.


However, Bilbao surprised most of the pundits by coming out on top in the final dash to the line after his Caja Rural team had combined forces with Movistar and Europcar to bring back the early break. The Spanish team had mainly been working for fastman Carlos Barbero who was among the favourites in the bunch sprint but it was Bilbao who turned out to be the best. The Basque beat Movistar sprinter Enrique Sanz and his teammate into the minor positions when they roared towards the finish line in Alba de Tormes.


With the win, Bilbao also takes the overall lead in the race which has again been shortened to three stages, and he goes into tomorrow’s second stage with a four-second advantage over Sanz in second. He faces a much tougher test tomorrow when the riders will venture into Portugal to go up to 1930m of altitude at the top of the Alto da Torre in the first half of the stage. However, the second part is mainly flat and only has a small climb with more than 60km to go, meaning than another sprint is expected before Sunday’s decisive queen stage.


A mixed course

The 30th Vuelta a Castilla y Leon kicked off with a 147.4km stage from Avila to Alba de Tormes which could be split into two parts. Right from the beginning, the riders went up a tough category 2 climb which was followed by two category 3 climbs. However, the final climb summited 64.6km from the finish and from there it was mainly downhill before the riders got to the slightly rising finale where a bunch sprint was expected.


The riders gathered in Avila under a cloudy sky and got the race off to a very fast start with lots of attacks. After 6km of racing, the first promising move was made by Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia), Ruben Menendez (Inteja) and Oscar Gonzalez (Efapel) but after having built an advantage of 13 seconds, they were brought back.


A strong quartet

The attacking continued but it was still all together when the riders hit the category 2 climb. Here Rubiano attacked again with Alejandro Marque (Efapel) and Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural) and the trio were joined by Moreno Giampaolo (MG.Kvis) to form a strong quartet. At the 16km mark, they were 22 seconds ahead but the Italian was distanced before they got to the top.


Instead, Walter Pedraza (Colombia) attacked and he joined the front trio after Goncalves had led Maque and Rubiano over the top, with the Colombian following in fourth. At the 21km mark, however, it all came back together and more attacks could be launched.


The break gets clear

This time Igor Merino (Burgos), William Guzman (Inteja), Vladimir Gusev (Skydive) and Marcos Jurado (Spain) took off and they had built an advantage of 20 seconds at the 30km mark. They had to fight hard against the peloton to get a bigger advantage but the bunch finally decided to slow down, allowing the gap to grow to 1.35 at the 39km mark.


The peloton was now taking a small breather and so the front quartet were 4.40 ahead after 45km of racing. They now started to climb the second ascent and here Jurado led Guzman, Gusev and Merino over the top.


The chase gets organized

At the point, the gap was 7.45 and that was as much as Movistar and Europcar would allow. The two teams hit the front of the peloton and kept the gap stable for a while.


As they approached the third climb, Caja Rural also started to chase and at the 81km mark, the three chasing teams had reduced the gap to 6.32. When Jurado led Gusev, Guzman and Merino over the top, the advantage was down to 5.13.


The break is caught

Caja Rural, Movistar and Europcar were working well together and when they entered the final 45km, they had brought the gap down to 5 minutes. 5km later, it was only 3.41 but the chase briefly got interrupted by a crash that forced Joshua Stritzinger (Rad-Net) to withdraw from the race.


With 30km to go, the gap was less than a minute and 5km later it was down to 40 seconds. Moments later, the fading front quartet were caught as Movistar, Europcar and Caja Rural continued their pace-setting.


With 15km to go, the riders hit a crosswind section and here Movistar tried to split things but the wind was not strong enough to make some damage. Hence, it was a largely intact peloton which entered the final 10km. A few riders tried to attack but it was impossible to prevent the bunch sprint where Bilbao turned out to be the fastest.



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