After suffering an almost career ending crash in February last year, the performances of Esteban Chaves in 2014 provided Orica-GreenEdge team manager Shayne Bannan with enough evidence to suggest that he can become a future grand tour contender. The 24-year-old started his year with fourth place overall at the Tour de Langkawi and continued to repay Orica-GreenEdge's faith in signing him throughout the season, culminating in third place overall and the best young rider jersey at the final Tour of Beijing.
"I was impressed by Esteban the whole year," Bannan told Cyclingnews. "When you consider that last year he rode one race, this year was all about giving him experience and watching him develop physically. He won a stage at Tour of California and at the Tour de Suisse, his Vuelta a España experience was fairly consistent, he had a few bad days, and his performance at the Worlds was very good. As was his Tour of Beijing to finish off the season."
Orica-GreenEdge's sporting director Matt White explained to Cyclingnews that he was similarly impressed by Chaves' performances across the year having been unsure just what to expect.
"With Esteban, we were in no man land as we didn't know how good he was after having a year off the bike," White said. "He couldn't even shake your hand properly. He's rehab is still ongoing and people don't realise, to have a year out of racing and to have the operations that he had, to win this year was very impressive."
Chaves' stage win on Mountain High and seventh place overall at the Tour of California along with his stage win to Verbier during the Tour de Suisse, was further proof that the 2011 winner of the Tour de l'Avenir had quickly adapted to life back in the professional peloton. The Colombian was duly rewarded for his exploits with a protected ride at the Vuelta a España, his grand tour début.
It was Chaves' Vuelta performance in particular, where he was ensconced within the top twenty for the first 15 stages of the race before finishing 41st overall, that further illustrated his potential to Bannan.
"I'd say that we have an athlete there that we can really develop into a GC rider. I am convinced about that," he said of Chaves. "Three week racing is something special. You develop into a three week rider, so he's a development in progress."