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Spanish rider Pello Bilbao cycles to the finish line to win the 10th stage of the 110th edition of the Tour de France race in the Massif Central highlands in France on Tuesday Image Credit: AFP

Issoire: Pello Bilbao won a hilly stage 10 of the Tour de France on Tuesday, becoming the first Spaniard in five years to win a stage on the world’s biggest bike race.

The main contenders for the overall title crossed the line together nearly three minutes after Bilbao. Omar Fraile was the last Spaniard to win at the Tour back in 2018.

Bilbao dedicated the victory to Gino Maeder, his Bahrain Victorius teammate who died last month after a crash on the Tour of Switzerland.

“I had to do it for Gino,” said Bilbao.

The 26-year-old Maeder fell into a ravine while competing in his home race in June, and the Swiss rider succumbed to his injuries a day later.

'Incredible feeling'

While Bilbao was quick to remember Maeder, he was delighted with his first Tour stage win.

“It’s an incredible feeling, I have waited years for this,” he said. “It would have been a dream to win at home because we started in Bilbao.”

The Spaniard led a chase to track down Latvia’s Krists Neilands, who looked set to make it two stages in a row for Israel-Premier Tech before he was finally caught by a desperate six-man pursuit.

On a baking 167km run from the volcano-themed Vulcania amusement park, the peloton laboured over five hills to the village of Issoire in Auvergne.

Billed as one of the Tour’s most beautiful stages, the pack splintered due to the intense conditions in exposed terrain on the semi-deserted hillsides along the Puy de Dome tectonic fault line.

Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard retained his 17-second lead in the overall standings but second-placed Tadej Pogacar forced the Dane into chasing him early in the stage.

'Loved the heat'

“I loved the heat,” said Vingegaard after a day that hit 38C on some of the exposed plains.

Pogacar looked relieved the stage was over.

“The team did a great job keeping me cool,” said the Slovenian, who unlike Vingegaard, dislikes extreme heat.

“After that the rest day seems like a long time ago,” Pogacar said.

American Neilson Powless also held on to the polka dot jersey and will likely do so again Wednesday.

“We need that day off, I didn’t do anything, and you should have seen how much water was being taken on today,” said Powless.

Riders took on between 12 and 15 water bidons each over the searing stage.

Jasper Philipsen retains the green jersey ahead of stage 11, which offers the Belgian Alpecin fast man a chance at a fourth stage win.

“I was putting ice in my vest all day, it was a question of hydrating but they were trying their best to keep us cool too,” said Philipsen.

“We nearly caught the escape, we got the gap down to two minutes but tomorrow’s another day and the goal is a fourth win.”