Day 2 of the Tour of the Alps was the Pelli & Pello show, as Sports Director Franco Pelizzotti masterminded a perfect performance from Bahrain Victorious, which was finished off by Pello Bilbao on an uphill finish in Lana.
It is the Spaniard’s 3rd career win at the Tour of the Alps, and means that he wears the green jersey for the first time. A great day was made even better when news came through that Santiago Buitrago had taken the white jersey for the best young rider as well!
There was climbing straight from the start in Primiero/S. Martin di Castrozza – the cat 2 Passo Rolle, on whose slopes a 10 man breakaway formed, including GC danger men Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) & Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), along with our own Hermann Pernsteiner.
Halfway through the stage the break had around 2’30”, as the main test of the day began: the Passo della Mendola; 16kms at an average gradient of 6.5%. From this moment, our team led the peloton right until the final few metres in Lana – nearly 80kms on the front!
With 30k remaining, Sivakov and Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) were over a minute in front, but Pernsteiner (who had dropped back to join his teammates), Buitrago, Bilbao, and Mikel Landa – who worked like a one-man engine – pulled the Bahrain train closer to the escapees as the kilometres ticked down.
Having been confident of fighting it out between themselves for the win, incredibly the duo in front were caught with 9.6k left, and still the red & orange jerseys dominated on the front.
As the bunch entered the uphill 2 kilometre drag to the line, Bahrain Victorious provided a lead out of which a sprint team would have been proud, leaving Bilbao an uncontested run in, and a chance to raise both arms ‘victorious’.
“We worked at our own pace, were super confident, and we always believed. The team did all the work, I just did the last 100metres to put the cherry on the cake. We really demonstrated that cycling is a team sport today,” said the stage winner afterwards.
After a 2nd place yesterday, today’s triumph means Pello takes a 6 second advantage over Romain Bardet into Wednesday’s Queen stage. Meanwhile, 22 year old Colombian Buitrago is also in the top 10, and leads the young riders’ classification.
There is plenty to play for in the next 3 days, and Bilbao, Buitrago, & Bahrain are in pole position:
“After being close to victory here a few times, this year I have the responsibility to fight for the jersey. We have a powerful team, with Mikel and Santiago near in the GC too. That’s going to be important because we expect a crazy race like we’ve already seen for the first two stages.”