Bilbao: Nobody deserved Giro d'Italia stage win more than Caruso

Pello Bilbao with Damiano Caruso behind DSM's Romain Bardet in the escape group on stage 20
Pello Bilbao with Damiano Caruso behind DSM's Romain Bardet in the escape group on stage 20 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) was a key teammate for Damiano Caruso in his gutsy long-distance attack on stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia and has expressed his pride at being able to contribute to the Italian's remarkable solo triumph on the race's final mountain stage.

Bilbao was present with Caruso from the moment the two launched a joint attack on the descent of the Passo San Bernardino to bridge up with an earlier three-man move by Team DSM led by Romain Bardet, through to taking the last turn for Caruso on the lower slopes of the Alpe Motta climb.

Caruso showed his appreciation for Bilbao's hard work by putting a friendly hand across his shoulders as he blasted away with Bardet on the Alpe Motta, and the Basque allrounder explained to Cyclingnews that he was particularly delighted to be able to help a teammate like Caruso, normally a team worker, but who now has a chance to shine on his own account.

Bilbao also explained that the two-up attack came partly thanks to DSM making a move earlier on and partly thanks to their realisation that Ineos Grenadiers were not paying full attention. He and Caruso seized the moment and it was race on.

"DSM were the ones who lit the fuse, we saw that Ineos were all there with their rain jackets on, well wrapped up and a bit inattentive."

"There were gaps appearing in the line, and when I saw they [Ineos] were losing the other guys wheels, I took Damiano up to the front and we went for it."

Having got across to the earlier attackers Bilbao said that there was a good deal of collaboration up front, most notably between Team DSM and Bahrain Victorious, and that the stage route was really good for gaining ground, wet on the descents and with a lot of climbing.

"We could keep Ineos at a distance and finally we got a spectacular victory for Damiano. Aside from Bernal, you could say Caruso has been the most consistent racer of the whole Giro, he took a big gamble today ... for sure nobody deserved the win more than him."

A top-five GC finisher in the Giro himself, Bilbao has had what he called a very varied Giro. There were "days when I suffered a lot, days when I've had to be getting a lot of treatment from the physios but days like today when everybody's on the limit, they're the ones which I do the best.

"And being able to ride for a guy like Damiano, who always races incredibly hard for his teammates and doesn't have a massive palmares, I enjoy that a heck of a lot."

For Bahrain Victorious, together with Gino Mäder's first-week stage win, Caruso's GC performance has been even more special and important given the appalling crashes and abandons suffered by Mikel Landa and Matej Mohorič.

"We remember them a lot and we've tried to keep the team spirit alive all the way through;" Bilbao concluded. "And winning this way on the last mountain stage, with an aggressive attack, couldn't be a better end to the race for us."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.