Pello Bilbao secured the stage 2 victory and moved into the overall race lead at the Tour of the Alps. The Spaniard led the Bahrain Victorious charge down the final descent of the day, closed the gap to an early breakaway, and his three remaining teammates supported him in the final sprint to take the stage victory in Lana. He crossed the line ahead of Romain Bardet (Team DSM) in second and Attila Valter (Groupama FDJ) in third.
“It's one of my favourite races, always after my home race, and I arrived in top shape. Today it's been so nice to win because we need to do a great job, all the team worked all day waiting for the last moment, trying to arrive in a small group to win in a sprint. [Pavel] Sivakov and the rest of the riders in the breakaway made us work hard but in the end, it's super nice. I don't know how the guys still had the legs to do this nice sprint,” Bilbao said in a post-race interview.
Bahrain Victorious split apart what was left of the main field over the top of the final ascent of the day, the Passo delle Palade, and closed the gap to Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) and Michael Storer (Groupama FDJ), who were the final two riders left of an original 11-rider breakaway, inside the final 10km of the stage.
“We were thinking that maybe this was too early, the attack was too early and they're not going to find collaboration between them. Finally, they could arrive quite long. In the last descent, we pulled full gas and we could just, at the bottom of the last descent, [bring it] all together. In the last 10km the team was super-strong just to control everything in the last part of the stage,” he said.
Bilbao moved into the overall race lead as stage 1 winner and overnight leader Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën) lost contact with the select front group over the Passo delle Palade. The Bahrain Victorious rider heads into stage 3 with six seconds ahead of Bardet and 12 seconds ahead of Valter.
“It's going to be difficult to control all the race. We saw yesterday, it was a hard stage. We had to spend some energy. Today we pulled [with] every single rider on the team. We are spending a lot, but we're thinking every day of the stage victory. If we arrive on the last day with the leader's jersey, of course, we will defend, but [the race] is still long.”
How it unfolded
The second stage of the Tour of the Alps was 154km from Primiero/S. Martin di Castrozza and began with a category 2 climb over Passo Rolle (20km) followed by an intermediate sprint into Cavalese (55km), and then a climb over the category 1 Passo della Mendola (105km) and Passo delle Palade (126km) before a long descent and a short run-in to the finish line in Lana.
A 10-rider breakaway emerged on the slopes of the Passo Rolle, a 21km ascent with an average gradient of 5.8 per cent, that included Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain Victorious), Miguel Ángel Lopez and Vadim Pronskiy (Astana Qazaqstan), Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën), Cian Uijtdebroecks (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education-EasyPost), Matteo Badilatti and Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) and Thymen Arensman (Team DSM).
Lopez created the climb first and took the full six mountain points offered over the top of Passo Rolle, with Badilatti in second for four points and Sivakov in third for the remaining two points.
As the large breakaway gained two minutes on the field, lone chaser Carl Fredrik Hagen (Israel Premier Tech) desperately tried to close the gap. He was caught halfway between the breakaway and the field for several kilometres before he finally closed the gap just after the intermediate sprint in Cavalese with 100km to go.
Lopez also rolled across the line to pick up full intermediate sprint points in Cavalese, as the breakaway pushed their lead out to more than three minutes.
AG2R Citroën led the peloton for much of the first half of the race, however, as they approached the second ascent, Passo della Mendola, it was Bahrain Victorious that moved to the front to help cut the gap to the breakaway down to under two minutes.
The 11 riders reached the lower slopes of the Passo della Mendola, a 16km climb with an average gradient of 6.5 per cent, together but as the pace increased on the climb, Hagen and Pronskiy fell off the back.
Sivakov attacked his breakaway companions and gained 10 seconds on the upper slopes of the Mendola. He took the full mountain points over the top before starting a short descent and moved into the lead of the mountains classification.
Bouchard initially looked to struggle on the Mendola but he hung on to the main field led by Bahrain Victorious over the top, just over a minute after Sivakov.
The original breakaway split apart behind Sivakov but he was later joined by Pernsteiner, Storer and Arensman as they raced into the third and final climb up the Passo delle Palade. The quartet held 25 seconds on chasers Lopez, Gall, Uijtdebroeks, Caicedo and Badilatti as they reached the base of the 16km ascent.
Halfway up the climb, Caicedo was dropped, and he, along with the remnants of the breakaway, was swallowed up by the reduced main group.
Sivakov, Storer and Arensman ground their way forward with one minute ahead of the group led by Bahrain Victorious quartet of Bilbao, Santiago Buitrago, Mikel Landa and Hermann Pernsteiner, who had enough energy left to support his team after being part of the original breakaway.
Sivakov attacked on the upper slopes of the Passo delle Palade but Storer was quick to respond and latched onto his back wheel. The pair committed to the move and gained 30 seconds on a struggling Arensman.
Storer and Sivakov worked well together and swapped turns through the wide, sweeping bends on the gradual descent. Despite their efforts, however, Bahrain Victorious, still with four riders at the front of the reduced field, slashed the gap to 30 seconds halfway down the descent. The pace was also too much for overnight leader Bouchard. Also caught out in the second group was Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost).
Bilbao, strongest on the descent, led the Bahrain Victorious' charge and almost single-handedly closed the distance to just 10 seconds before they even reached the bottom.
Once on the flatter roads, his three Bahrain Victorious teammates led the field and swept up Sivakov and Storer inside 10km to go. The 17-rider lead group also included some of the other GC contenders with Bardet and Chris Hamilton (Team DSM), Joe Dombrowski (Astana), and Esteban Chaves (EF Education-EasyPost).
With Bouchard among the second group at 40 seconds back, the new race leader would come out of the small lead group.
Bahrain Victorious led the field into the final kilometre with four riders, setting up the sprint for Bilbao, and no one could match the Spaniard as he took the stage victory and the leader’s jersey in Lana.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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