Since the earthquake of 2009 the city of L'Aquila lives on its knees. Broken and frightened on the crest of a hill in Abruzzo. Two kilometers from the finish, the five escapees were also kneeling on their pedals, with their calculations and their fears. How to manage those final thousand meters in rise after a whole day at runaway pace? Formolo had spent to tie Hamilton and Cattaneo. Gallopin came with the reserve on. The fifth was the Biscayan Pello Bilbao, the one who best knew how to play hide and seek. The one who won.
He is already 29 years old. It is already a cyclist with a past, with experience. The last cartridge had been reserved. He stroked that bullet with the tips of his fingers. Cold blood of accurate sniper. He pointed. And two steps from the banner of the last kilometer he pulled the trigger. He ordered his lungs to carburize. Butt. Without turning. And when, already in the crumbling center of L'Aquila, he looked back, he saw that the victory was his, that it was the others who came up with their legs in ruins. Under the banner he spread his arms and hit his chest so hard it could have been recorded on the Richter scale.
"I was not the one in charge of getting into the leak, but things have turned out that way. In an improvised way »he counted. But once in the breakaway, the Gernika corridor put its mental machinery to work. He had a companion in Astana, Zeits, who was the one who maintained the pulse with the platoon in the port of Svolte di Popoli. Zeits was immolated by Pello as Pello so many times by 'Superman' López or Jon Izagirre. He is a complete cyclist. Good time trialist, resistant in the mountains and with speed in leaks as well. «I lack that final drive to be with those who dispute a great return», He says. It is your challenge. Cross that border. It is close, but it is the step that distinguishes the good from the best. That's it.
Methodical, he has not stopped progressing since he was a kid of the cycling society of Gernika. Entered as Fellow at the Euskadi Foundation and reached the Euskaltel-Euskadi by a shortcut, by the injury of Koldo Fernández de Larrea. The closure of the orange team in 2013 forced him to go down and make merit in the Caja Rural. He made them and the Astana opened the door for him. He has not stopped thanking him with work and triumphs like the stages he has won in the Tour of the Alps, the Dauphiné and now in the Giro, the race that a year ago saw him occupy the sixth final place. Another step In L'Aquila, Pello Bilbao said aloud what cycling already knew. He is a good auctioneer. A cyclist with a goal.
The echo of the earthquake
On the beaches and palm trees of Vasto, starting point, the name of the goal, L'Aquila, reverberated. The echo of that earthquake. More than 300 dead. The wound is still open on that earth shaded by the bulk of the Gran Sasso. It was going to be a fast-paced stage, a fast madness capable of cracking the peloton. In the first two hours it flew over 48 kilometers per hour. At the UAE, the team of the happy leader, Valerio Conti, his work accumulated, so much so that Vincenzo Nibali's Bahrain had to come to his aid. Only thus they hunted the leak in which they went Pello Bilbao, Izagirre, Plaza, Rojas, Nieve, Gallopin and Madouas.
By then the Giro had claimed two more casualties, that of Gaviria, an injured sprinter, and that of De Plus, the best gregarious on the mountain of Roglic. I will miss you. The Giro does not wait. And less for the broken road to L'Aquila, heart of the Apennines. Pello Bilbao and his partner Zeits, Rojas, Pedrero, Gallopin, Formolo, De Gendt, Cattaneo, Hamilton and Henao mounted another wagon loaded with quality. The Bahrain moved away. Yel UAE burst on the first ramp of the port of Svolte di Popoli. The pink jersey of Conti frayed. Rojas, fourth overall, began to dream about her. Their hope dissipated when they accelerated the Trek, the Jumbo and the Mitchelton. They saved the leadership of the orphan Conti. Rojas was going to settle for being second. And the escape was only going to discuss the stage. Of gold, yes.
They say that the earthquake moved L'Aquila 15 centimeters on the maps. After a day in stampede, the key was to hit the moment of attack. Not an inch before. On the run, he had only five numbers left. Hamilton, so young, was the most impatient, the one who moved the most on the steep slopes. Formolo, the most prestigious, took command. He wanted to prevail and win by demolition. He left portodos, even for Rojas, who came back. But Formolo did not have as much energy as he thought.
L'Aquila is a good example of fragility. A tremor at dawn and goodbye. The five looked at each other between gasps. Pello Bilbao had been silent until the entrance to the old city. He saved everything he could. He had more patience than Formolo. He let him do, wear himself out. And, noticing a break, he chose the best moment. Dry. The ground shook. Earthquake. Neither Formolo nor Cattaneo, who tried it, closed the gap. The Giro wanted to reward the growth and patience of Pello Bilbao. «Today is a very important day for me. It took me a long time to achieve my first stage victory in a great lap, "he said at the finish line. He already has it. And there are still steps and auctions to give.