Champions in sport are derived not only from their extraordinary physical attributes, but also their drive and determination to succeed. History is littered with cyclists who though blessed with great talent, have lacked that cutthroat winning mentality to fully reach their true potential.
You can be a good rider, with only one of the above, but to be truly great you need to have both. And it is that which earmarks Esteban Chaves, who won this year’s Tour de l’Avenir at 20 years of age, as a future great.
The manner in which he won the historic French race, with calculated attacks on the hard mountain days, climbing flair, and ultimately grit in slowly working his way back into contention for overall honours after finishing a dismal 50th in the opening day’s time trial in Yutz, that makes Chaves such an exciting talent.
Though there were many talented riders in the field of this year’s race, Chaves told Cyclingnews that it was the self-confidence in his ability that allowed him to take victory on the final day’s stage around Alba.
"People have had confidence in me for a long time, my team had confidence in me and that has driven me to have confidence in myself. When I approach a race, I go to win, I leave nothing on the road." said Chaves.
"Perhaps that has at times meant that I have not ridden as conservatively as I should, but I know that working with someone as experienced as Claudio [Corti] [directing Colombia-Coldeportes in 2012] can only help me to mature further."
It is with that confidence that has Chaves aiming big, to future Grand Tour success, something he strongly believes he can return Colombian cycling to after Lucho Herrera’s heroics inspired the country in the 1980s.
"One day I want to win the Tour de France," Chaves states with a calmness that comes with confidence. "That is my project for my career in cycling. All of the Grand Tours are important, but for me I want to win the Tour."
Chaves has the build of a pure climber, which is not surprising considering he lives at altitude in Colombia where mountains are more abundant than stretches of flat road. But his weakness lies in the time trial, and with the current trend in Grand Tours shifting to having more and more kilometres in the discipline, Chaves says he is working hard to improve in the ‘race of truth’.
"Of course I know I need to work on my time trial, but I am young and improving against the clock takes time. I’ve been working on my shorter time trial efforts in Colombia in the last few months, and hopefully I can show some improvement next year."
"I am proud to be part of this project, I think with this team we can expect to do big things in the years ahead."
Colombia-Coldeportes will be based out of Italy, and is aiming to earn a wild card for participation in the Giro, Tour or Vuelta in 2012.