"Gino’s death has changed how I race" - Pello Bilbao returns to the tragic events of last year's Tour de Suisse

There was a special bond between Pello Bilbao and Gino Mäder. Which is why it was even harded for the Spaniard to accept the tragic loss of his friend at the 2023 Tour de Suisse. Bahrain - Victorious, followed by many other teams, subsequently withdrew from the race, but Pello already had to set his eyes on his big goal of 2023 - the Tour de France. And it was very difficult for him to turn the page so quickly.

In fact, Bilbao is passionate about the events from last year to this day, as he writes in his Rouleur blog: "We’re coming up to the one-year anniversary of his death, and I still think about him a lot. Anyone who ever met him would agree that he was really special. His type is not that common to find in the cycling world: he was something more than a cyclist, not just worried about performance, a complete person who thought about many different topics, and you could see he was worried about more important things. When you were with him, he put things into perspective."

"The day he died at the Tour de Suisse was very obviously the worst moment of my cycling career; it was very, very hard. The first few days I had little motivation to ride my bike, but with the Tour de France starting in the Basque Country, already a special event, I started to think that I wanted to do something big at the Tour in memory of Gino to show how special he was."

And when good intentions meet with quality, the result will come. The opening weekend in Basque Country came a bit too early for Bilbao, but he fulfilled his main goal before halfway point of the race. "To pull off a win on stage 10 from the breakaway was a big relief – I was at peace," he expresses what the victory meant to him.

And not only to Bilbao; whole team was immediately on a high to pay tribute to their good friend. "When I won, I dedicated it to him, and it meant so much for everyone on the team. It really helped us all, and Wout Poels and Matej Mohoric subsequently won stages too. We were all racing for Gino, like our jerseys said."

Before the race, Pello Bilbao was widely regarded as one of the best descenders in the peloton, but he admits that he's now far more cautious during race. "I try to avoid risky situations a lot more now, and only go full gas when I am really convinced and feel like it’s necessary to have a good result. The good thing is, I know that I can control every situation and with analysis and race recces, I can minimise the risks. But I have to be honest: Gino’s death has changed how I race."

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