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LUGO, Spain (VN) — Colombian Esteban Chaves took a risk, but it is working. He is riding with the top favorites, already distancing some, in the Vuelta a España despite having one race day since finishing second at the Giro d’Italia in May.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) lost time and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo) crashed out. Chaves, Orica – BikeExchange’s leader, is riding high with Chris Froome (Sky) and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana after a successful team time trial and two summit finishes.
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“Yes. The beginning has gone very well for me,” Chaves said. “I said to everyone that is the most important thing to save the most energy you can.
“It’s hard to do so here in northern Spain. It’s been hot, as well. We are trying to continue with this plan of conserving energy. These races are won in the last week. You saw that in the Giro. In the final week, you can see the best riders.”
Chaves won the queen stage in the Dolomites and led the Giro d’Italia, closing second overall behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He fell sick when he returned to Colombia. Afterward, he began preparing for his late-season goal with a mix of training designed to make him race ready despite the lack of competition.
“I would usually do a mix of things,” Chaves said. I would do many intervals behind the motorbike or the car. I rode a lot of kilometers, and a lot of kilometers on the climbs or at altitude. This way I could arrive here with calmness.”
Chaves traveled only to Brazil to race in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics — his only race between the Giro and Vuelta — where he placed 21st.
“This year has been different with the Olympics close to Colombia, so I did my route preparations for the Vuelta in Colombia but with the Olympic road race objective in the middle,” Chaves added. “It would have been too much stress coming here to race the Vuelta a Burgos and then going back to race the Olympics and then returning to Europe.”
Chaves smiled and looked over toward a team helper, who signaled it was time for him to ride to the podium for the start of stage 5. He is 26 years old, and out of the favorites Froome, Valverde, and Quintana, he has the least amount of grand tour experience — but he seems to be handling himself well.
“Yes, it’s true you enter into the Vuelta and in the first days, it’s hard because you need to have your rhythm,” said Chaves. “But I think our team is good at managing it.”