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PAMPLONA, Spain (VN) — Esteban Chaves is confirming during this Vuelta a España his breakout Giro d’Italia podium was no fluke.
The 26-year-old Colombian is continuing his upward trajectory that started with the 2015 Vuelta, when he was fifth overall. He followed that up with a second at the 2016 Giro, and after a mid-season break he is battling for another podium.
“I think that the race is still open,” the Orica – BikeExchange rider said ahead of Friday’s 13th stage. “We are still in the fight, and there are still some hard and difficult stages ahead of us.”
The fight for the podium is certainly a busy one. Chaves started Friday’s longest stage fourth overall at 2:34 behind leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He has Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Leopold Konig (Sky) nipping at his heels at just over a half-minute behind, and he is 1:29 behind third-place Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
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“I hope to keep where I am, because normally those who raced the Tour de France will start to slip back,” Chaves said. “We have to see. We have climbs of 30-40-50 minutes ahead of us, and those are better for the Colombians. … I feel good. I hope to be more consistent at this Vuelta. The most important thing is that I am recovering day to day, and I have not faltered even one day.”
Orica is enjoying one of its best Vueltas, with Chaves and Simon Yates (seventh at 3:25 back) both in the top 10, and two stage victories so far. Yates won stage 6 and Jens Keukeleire won Thursday’s transition stage into Bilbao.
Chaves also has ambitions to win a stage for himself. He won two stages at last year’s Vuelta and won stage 14 at the Giro, wearing the leader’s jerseys during spells in both grand tours. On Wednesday’s brutal finale at Peña Cabarga, Chaves played his card early but was swarmed before the summit by the chasing Chris Froome (Sky) and Quintana.
“We showed our teeth,” he said. “I made a mistake. I thought the final was a little bit easier, and instead, the last 500m were very hard and they caught me. We tried, and we will keep trying. We are here to try to win, and that’s what we tried to do. I also hope to do the GC as well as possible. We’ll keep taking it day by day.”