Esteban Chaves is into the top ten on general classification at the Giro d'Italia for the first time in 2016 following the Roccaraso mountaintop finish where the Colombian climber finished seventh, taking time on some of his overall rivals. The Orica-GreenEdge rider finished ahead of riders such as Rigoberto Uran, Rafal Majka, Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Mikel Landa and Ryder Hesjedal who are all expected to challenge for the podium in Turin.
While maglia rosa Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) extended his race lead and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) finished head of the 26-year-old, it was a successful start to the Giro's climber friendly stages as Chaves explained.
"First mountain day, hard day and some teams and people show their muscle in the final," Chaves said in the team’s backstage pass video. "I feel great, I arrived with the best guys, but this is obvious because the team always stays with me."
Chaves praised the early work on the run in to the 18km climb by his teammates such as Sam Bewley, Michael Hepburn and Svein Tuft before being looked after by recent Spanish signings, Amets Txurruka and Ruben Plaza.
"The big guys in the beginning and the climbers in the final like Amets or Ruben or [Damien] Howson. The big guys like Bewley, Sveino, Heppy help me all the time," said Chaves, adding that the teams chrono specialists saved him crucial energy needed on the final climb to push past his rivals for seventh place behind stage winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal).
"I feel like I am doing motor pacing always because I am behind Sveino, behind Sam. It's like 100 watts less, so it's watts I can use in the final and this is the result," said Chaves who won two stages of last year's Vuelta a Espana as he finished fifth overall.
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Sport director Matt White echoed the statements of Chaves, adding that while the stage finale didn't quite play out like he'd anticipated, he was content with the outcome.
"We are all really pleased with the how the race is going so far," said White. "Esteban (Chaves) was feeling good going into the finale and it is never a bad thing to gain a few seconds where you can on a Grand Tour. Today was a little bit of a surprise in the sense that everyone expected the final climb to be harder than it actually was which was an important factor in how the stage was won.
"We decided to test the water a little towards the end.The last breakaway had developed a good lead and we had a couple of digs at the front to bring the gap down a little but there wasn't really any team wanting to commit fully to the chase."
With a stage for a breakaway, or possibly a sprint finish, next on the agenda, stage 8 with the Alpe di Polti climb featuring near the end of the day before the fast descent into Arezzo will require Chaves and Orica-GreenEdge to be on alert with Sunday's stage 9 time trial through the Chianti vineyards expected to cause the next big GC shake up.
"The team is very relaxed and confident going into stage seven, we are in good position and we are looking forward to the rest of the race," added White.