Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali worked together to take on their rivals on the decisive mountain stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour but ended a third day of racing in the heat with second place for the young Vuelta a Espana winner.
Nibali was the first to attack on the 11km climb to Jebel Hafeet, jumping away with gusto some 5.6km to go. But he blew after a kilometre off the front and was caught by the remains of the front group. He went on to finish ninth at 1:19. Aru was stronger and more determined as he tried to chase after Chaves in the final four kilometres. He was unable to stay with Wout Poels (Team Sky) on the climb and was surprised to see the Dutchman sprawled on the road after crashing on the final corner.
"I didn't see how Poels crashed, I was a bit behind. But I feel sorry for him, It's a pity to lose like that because he was strong and had a chance of victory," Aru told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"Vincenzo tried first and then I had a go. I think we played a good team game. We rode in unison and spoke throughout the stage. It's a pity not to win but we have to be pretty happy. Chaves showed he was the strongest and we have to accept that."
Nibali stopped alongside Aru after the finish of the stage, signalling that he did not have the legs to make the difference and go clear when he made his move.
"On the final climb my condition was not very good; it was okay but not super," he said. "Fabio Aru was feeling better and we spoke with Fabio about how to ride it. I attacked in the last 6km and then he attacked. We gave it our best shot but Chaves had better legs and after his attack there was nothing we could do. I'm happy for Fabio and his second place. It was a good race but you can't always win."
Nibali and Aru will end their 2015 seasons with Sunday's final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour on the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit. Aru will have raced for a total of 71 days, finishing second at the Giro d'Italia and winning the Vuelta an Espana. Nibali will have ridden for one day less, after finishing fourth in the Tour de France and being expelled from the Vuelta after stage two for holding to his Astana team car as he chased due a puncture.
Aru has arguably secured equal team leadership at Astana after his season alongside Nibali despite being much younger.
"I've tried to honour every race I've ridden, even if my form isn't great after a month of extra stuff following my Vuelta win," Aru said. "I kept training and gave it everything in the races. I think everyone saw that today. That's a satisfying way to end the season."