"Last year it was one of the most intense emotions I’ve ever lived" - Stage win the priority for Pello Bilbao; but Basque wants to improve on Tour de France GC

Pello Bilbao experienced a dream Tour de France in 2023, taking his first stage win and then going on to battle for a career-best sixth spot in the Grand Boucle. Like fine wine, at 34 years of age the Bahrain - Victorious seems to be getting stronger by the year and comes into the Tour once again with high ambitions.

“The start in Florence is going to be a new experience. Personally, it won’t be as intense as departing from my home (as was the case in 2023, ed.), but even so, it will be nice to start in Italy," he said in a press release. "I’ve always had great memories racing in Italy, and I’ve missed it because, in the last few years, I’ve not raced the Giro, which is one of my favourite races, so I’m excited about starting the Tour in such a great city like Florence."

Focusing on the Tour this year, it is obvious that Bilbao wanted to repeat the success of last year or perhaps, if possible, even improve on it - although that will be a difficult task taking into consideration how strong the GC field is. But the veteran is a Grand Tour specialist and a very versatile rider, who loves the third week of Grand Tours and will find one of toughest ever Tour finales.

"Overall, I would say the parcours is pretty complete with two long time trials, which I’m really looking forward to, especially as I’ve worked really hard this year for improvements in the TT, and I want to see if the results are arriving," he continues. "We then have the gravel sector this year which will also be a decisive stage for the overall. The difficulties are pretty spread out over the three weeks straight from the beginning, and you’ll need to be 100% from the off. You can’t start the Tour and expect to grow in the race. It’s going to be crucial to be ready."

Bilbao was third at the UAE Tour and sixth at Itzulia Basque Country this year, adding to that a couple Top10 results at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He followed a different warm-up to the Tour when comparing to all his rivals, at the Tour of Slovenia, where he won the queen stage and finished second in the overall classification. Whilst he dreams of a good GC result, it is clear through his words that winning another stage is at the top of the priority list for this year.

My ambitions obviously will be to try win another stage. Last year it was one of the most intense emotions I’ve ever lived through in my cycling career, and I’d love to repeat it; there is nothing comparable to winning a stage at the Tour de France," he states.

"Meanwhile I will also be focusing on the GC and want to do my best possible race. It will be a really interesting Tour with all the big contenders here, and it will also be interesting to see who comes out on top this year between Tadej and Jonas, especially after Tadej’s strong show in the Giro. Overall, we have a really strong team coming here, and every day will be an opportunity for us.”

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