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Interview point: Pello Bilbao on impressive start at Giro, Zoncolan and his future in three-week races

The Spanish rider Pello Bilbao is spending the second season in Astana Pro Team and this year he already did a big step ahead in his career: he won a nice stage at the Tour of the Alps, did 7th in the GC of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and 8th in overall of the Itzulia Basque Country. But the main fact is that after 10 days of racing and three tough mountain climbs Pello still holds a solid 8th place in the general classification of the Giro d’Italia, fighting on a very high level with the biggest favorites of the Italian Grand tour.

How do you feel now, in the beginning of the second week of the race?

- Of course, I am a bit tired, because the last weekend was quite hard for everyone. But, also, the whole first week was long and intensive with three stages and a lot of logistics in Israel, a travel to Sicily and moving from Sicily to motherland… We never had too much time to recover after the stages and, honestly, my head was waiting for the first real rest day we had on Monday. Yes, we had one more rest day after coming to Sicily, but it was messed up by our trip from Israel. I needed some time to disconnect from the race, from all the stress we have day by day in the stages. So, now, I am starting the second week of the Giro with new forces and full of energy.

A very impressive first week for you, did you expect to be so competitive in the general classification of the Giro?

- I knew, that I did a very important step for me after the last season. Already at the Vuelta a España I’ve realized I can reach a very good form and it gave me a lot of confidence. I could see that I can be more competitive in a three-week race. So, in the Giro d’Italia I wanted to continue in the same way as I did at the Vuelta. But, of course, I did not expect to be in the Top-10 of the GC after 10 days of racing. It was not in my plans to be so high in this race. I think, the first TT gave me an opportunity to place myself so high, but later, of course, day by day I was able to follow the best riders to hold my position. And now this brings me more motivation for the future.

What is your plan for the second part of the race?

- I think it is up to our sports directors to decide the team’s strategy and I am ready to follow it for 100%. We have the leader in the team, Miguel Angel Lopez, and the whole team is ready to support him. Of course, I am ready too. But, in case it will be in team’s interest to keep my advanced position in the general classification for some more stages and to play a few variants of tactics, I will do my best to try to stay in front as long as I can.

So, two more really difficult stages are expecting for us in the next weekend. What do you think about Monte Zoncolan? Do you know this climb? What do you expect from yourself on this climb?

- I remember this climb, because my ex-teammate Igor Anton won the Giro d’Italia stage on this climb. I saw the description of this stage and it looks really hard with no place to hide or to breath. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect from myself on this toughest climb, but I can say that I already have some experience of such hard climbs. For example, last year at the Vuelta I was progressing day by day and to the third week I found myself in a great shape, so on Angliru I was strong enough. So, I don’t have any reason to think I can’t do well Monte Zoncolan.

Will you talk to Igor Anton to know something more about Zoncolan?

- Yeah, Igor is in the peloton, so maybe I will chat with him about that climb, how to go on it, how to eat. Maybe, he will give me a bit of inspiration for this stage.

Regardless of your final result at the Giro d’Italia, you already showed you have a potential in three-week races. So, will you move ahead in this direction in the future?

- For this season my personal objective was to be more consistent in week-long races and in a few of them the team allowed me to go for a personal result as, for example, I did at the Itzulia Basque Country. Also, I started to work hard on my TT skills and I think, I am progressing in this direction as well. I feel like I am more complete rider in this moment than I was before. So, in general I am ready for the next steps. But, of course, until now I have never experienced a situation I live now at the Giro d’Italia and so far I don’t know what to expect from myself. So, maybe, in the future if the team be interested on that, I could try to work further in this direction. Anyway, right now I am here for the team and our leader Miguel Angel Lopez.

Photo credit: @Bettiniphoto

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