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Esteban Chaves is feeling fit, positive, and raring to go.
The Colombian heads up a strong Mitchelton-Scott team at the Vuelta a Burgos next week alongside Simon Yates and Mikel Nieve, and is hoping to both test his Tour de France legs and repeat past success.
“Burgos is special for me as my first professional victory was in Vuelta a Burgos in 2012 on the last stage up Lagunas de Neila,” Chaves said. “We have that climb again this year so that is pretty exciting.”
For Chaves and the rest of the pro peloton, the 2.Pro Spanish race starting Tuesday will offer the opportunity to stretch the race legs for the first time since March.
“I am really nervous, excited, and anxious but I think I am in good shape,” Chaves said. “Personally the lockdown was a good time for me, and after that I am more hungry and I can see everything with a different perspective. Burgos will be the start of this new chapter so I am very excited.
“The most important thing for me in Burgos is to see how my performance is of course, but also to be back at the races and see the team, both my teammates and staff, and be involved again in the racing atmosphere.”
Chaves spent the coronavirus racing pause at home, benefiting from the thin air of Colombia. With fellow South Americans Nairo Quintana and Richard Carapaz set to start alongside the likes of Sepp Kuss, Alejandro Valverde, and Remco Evenepoel, Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White sees the race as a key proving ground ahead of the team’s major objectives at the grand tours.
“It is going to be a pretty competitive field,” White said. “Realistically I think we will be competitive, but the main thing is it will be a test after four and a half months without racing … I expect the general level to be very high and with the team we have, I expect our guys to be very competitive. How competitive, we will find out.”
The Australian team has opted to focus on sniping for stages at the Tour this summer with Chaves, Nieve and Adam Yates while saving Simon Yates’ legs for an all-in GC challenge at the Giro d’Italia.
Chaves will be hoping to pick up where he left off as he builds toward his second-ever Tour, August 29. Having battled illness through 2018, last year saw the 30-year-old showing glimmers of the former self that has netted him two grand tour podiums. Before coronavirus shut down the season, he continued his upward trajectory with seventh overall at this February’s Tour Colombia.
The explosive, mountainous Tour on tap for the summer could suit Chaves well, and he’s looking to the hilly race in Spain next week to see how his form stacks up against some of the peloton’s best.
“This year we have two hilltop finishes [at Burgos], so it will be nice to see how the legs compare to the other riders and to know already how the training and all the work we did in Colombia was,” he said.