ISSOIRE, France -- It was an emotional first win at the Tour de France for Pello Bilbao on Tuesday.
The Spanish cyclist sprinted to victory at the end of the tricky 10th stage and also gained significant time in the overall standings, which are still led by Jonas Vingegaard.
Bilbao raised his arms above his head in celebration at the end of one of the hardest stages of the Tour so far, finishing the undulating 167-kilometer (104-mile) route from Vulcania to Issoire just ahead of Georg Zimmermann and Ben O'Connor in the sweltering heat of central France.
The Bahrain-Victorious rider immediately dedicated his win to former teammate and friend Gino Mäder, who died last month from injuries suffered in a crash at the Tour de Suisse.
"I closed the gap with O'Connor first and then, with cold blood, let Zimmermann make his sprint, go on the wheel and just [went] full the last 200 meters without thinking of nothing," Bilbao said. "And then I crossed the line and I just put out all the energy that I had inside and remembering the reason of this victory.
"A special one, for Gino."
Bilbao had announced pre-Tour that he would be following in the actions of Mäder, by donating one Euro for every rider he beats on each stage toward funding to replant trees in areas of deforestation.
He beat 168 riders on Tuesday.
Most of the overall contenders finished just over three minutes further back and that saw Bilbao move up from 11th to fifth, less than two minutes off the podium.
Defending champion Vingegaard maintained his 17-second advantage over two-time winner Tadej Pogačar. Jai Hindley was in third place, 2 minutes, 40 seconds off the pace.
After the first rest day on Monday, the Tour kicked off the second week with a difficult stage featuring five categorized climbs and almost no flat sections. The soaring temperatures were made even more brutal by the heat reflecting off the roads.
It was relentless from the start and many riders were clearly suffering. But eventually a break of 14 formed.
Krists Neilands looked like one of the strongest of the 14 and he attacked on the final climb, crossing the Côte de la Chapelle-Marcousse with a 30-second advantage. However, he was chased down by Bilbao on the descent and caught with just over 3 kilometers remaining.
"Everybody was on the limit, Neilands did an impressive attack," Bilbao said. "I think he was the strongest one, but he spent a lot of energy with the hot wind in the face.
"In the back group, we just collaborated in the right way and then in the last 3 kilometers I knew that [I] was the fastest man in the group, so I just took the control."
Neilands eventually finished in fourth for Israel-Premier Tech.
"It was a really tough stage," Neilands said. "It was hard, it was hot, but it was great to be there on the road and we did a really good race as a team and we were always there in the moves and I think we raced really good and we did the maximum we could do today and it just didn't work out."
O'Connor was the first to attack as he knew the sprint didn't suit him, but Bilbao was straight on him, with Zimmermann swiftly catching up. But Bilbao launched his sprint off Zimmermann's wheel and held him and O'Connor off for the win.
"I hadn't experienced such a day on a bike for a while," O'Connor said. "The start of the stage was absolutely brutal. I'm really happy to have managed to get into the breakaway after such a battle.
"With the heat, you had to stay focused at all times and not crack mentally. Even if I was off the back a bit, I always believed in it. In the last kilometers, I tried to maneuver as well as possible to try to escape my breakaway companions and win the stage. I didn't manage it so I'm definitely a little disappointed."
Wednesday's 11th stage features three lower-category climbs on the 180-kilometer (112-mile) route from Clermont-Ferrand to Moulins and is expected to end in a sprint finish.
The Tour ends in Paris on July 23.