20 Jan 2023

Pello Bilbao’s super cool downhill bike handling skills handed the Spaniard a debut Santos Tour Down Under stage win on Friday.

Bahrain Victorious’ Giro D’Italia stage winner beat Australia’s hot GC favourite Jay Vine (UAE Emirates) and Vuelta a Espana champion Simon Yatas (Jayco AlULa) to the Maryvale Road, Athelstone finish line in the Stage 3 Norwood to Campbelltown.

“We really came in a good mood to this race,’’ Bilbao, 32, said.

“(Team sports director) Neil Stephens was super enthusiastic about this race it’s been six months preparing for his home race.

In the end, we came here early, on January 4, to train and to adapt to the heat and the time zone and to check all the stages.”With Bilbao claiming his first stage win at the Australian WorldTour race, Vine became the third ochre jersey leader after South Australia’s Rohan Dennis was forced to concede the GC a day after Italian Alberto Bettilol cramped up before the Victor Harbor finish line where he threw his bidon in disgust.

Dennis had a mechanical close to Kersbrook and was forced to change his bike.

Dennis is 1min:25 sec behind Vine with two stages to go.

Bilbao is just 15 seconds off pole position while Yates is sitting third, 16 seconds adrift of Vine, the reigning Australian time trial champion.

After leaving the picturesque The Parade, Norwood the race didn’t get off to a frenetic start.

The first attack arrived when EF Education-Easypost's Mikkel Honore was chasing Fabio Felline from Astana Qazakstan.

The pair didn’t pose a threat to the GC contenders until the second efex King of the Mountain where the favourites were positioning themselves for the Corkscrew Road summit.

In a bizarre incident, Astana Qazakstan teammates Gianni Moscon and Leonardo Basso crashed into each other just before the second efex king of the mountain at Checker Hill.

Moscon abandoned the race with what appeared to be a serious injury to his upper left arm.

Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas from INEOS Grenadiers went to the front of the peloton before Vine decided to take control at Kangaroo Creek reservoir before the final KOM.

Dennis was still at the back end of the main peloton at the bottom of Corkscrew Road.

The showdown to the Maryvale Road, Athlestone finish:

efex King of the Mountain No. 1- Ashton 9.6km: Average gradient 4.8 per cent.

Mikkel Honore from EF Education-Easy Post claimed the maximum points ahead of Fabio Felline from Astana Qazakstan.

The pair opened a 2min;13sec gap before Ineos Grenadiers’ Luke Plapp came in third and Tim van Dijke from Jumbo Visma came in fourth.

At that stage, the virtual KOM was still headed by Jay Vine from UAE Emirates.

Ziptrak Sprint 1 – Lobethal – 29km

Felline claimed the first Ziptrak sprint 1 at Lobethal at 29km followed by Honore and Australia’s Kaden
Groves from Alpelcin-Deceuninck.

Ziptrak sprint 1 - Williamstown 64km

Felline also claimed the second sprint while Honore and Groves stood firm.

Felline at that point of the race owned the points classification jersey.

Efex King of the Mountain Kersbrook 82.2km – Average gradient 9.4 per cent

Honore was first atop the summit as the peloton closed in on Felline, Jai Hindley from Bora-hansgrohe
came in third at Checker Hill.

Honore at that point of the race was the virtual KOM before the Corkscrew Road was expected to rip the
race apart.

Vuelta a Espana winner Simon Yates from Jayco AlUla was fourth as Felline was caught by the peloton.

Efex King of the Mountain, Montacute, Corkscrew Road – Average gradient 9.2 percent

This is the summit which cracked the race.

Jay Vine was just too good and far too strong along a climb which had decimated some of the best WorldTour riders on the planet.

Simon Yates from Jayco AlULa and Pello Bilbao Bahrain Victorious followed the Australian’s wheel all the way to the summit before the huge descent to Maryvale Road, Athelstone.


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