On the eve of the queen stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Esteban Chaves is backing Mitchelton-Scott teammates Damien Howson and Cameron Meyer for overall victory. The Colombian has downplayed his own chances for the yellow jersey and first win of the season.
Chaves sits 21st on the general classification, 46 seconds behind race leader Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) ahead of the summit finish, but says that Howson (sixth) and Meyer (fourth) are the team’s best options for the overall. The Colombian says that he is happy to ride in support of the two former champions.
"This is a big gap and the climb is not hard enough," Chaves said after finishing stage 2 in Ballarat. "They will be super important kilometres before [the climb], 200 kilometres is serious. We have Cam and Damo at the front, so for sure they are the leaders. If there is one chance and someone attacks, I cover it. It's good for me but the priority is Cameron and Howson, for sure, 100 per cent."
Chaves has spent the last few weeks training in Australia before making his 2018 season debut at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race late last month. Lake Mountain, though, is one climb that Chaves has yet to see. With experienced sports director Matt Wilson in the team car, and modern technology at his disposal, Chaves isn't expecting any surprises tomorrow afternoon on the mountain slopes.
"With all the technology we have, you can now see the climb on different websites or whatever,” Chaves said. “The hardest part is the first 10 kilometres. After that, you save 150 watts if you are on the wheel, so it is hard."
Although Chaves suggests the GC is out of his reach this week, the Kinglake finale Sunday could still suit his characteristics. While Chaves races to win, the Herald Sun Tour is an important early season test of his climbing legs as he builds for May's Giro d'Italia, where he will ride with the ambition of returning to the overall podium. A podium in Victoria at the Herald Sun Tour could still be on the cards come Sunday, possibly joining Howson and Meyer on the dais in Kinglake.
"It is a good test and tomorrow, I think the guy who wins will keep the jersey and win the race. Hopefully, it is Mitchelton-Scott," said Chaves.