Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge) is growing in strength and experience with each stage that passes at the Vuelta a Espana. The Colombian rider continues to impress as he rides with the focus and calm demeanour of a veteran, despite the stress and expectations of being a GC contender. Leading into the final week of the Vuelta, he is currently in fifth place 1:34 minutes down on overall leader Fabio Aru (Astana) and ten seconds down on third placed Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Heading into the finish on stage 15, Chavez was able to dig into his reserves in order to remain with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Astana) in order to keep his fifth place on GC.
"The last climb was really fast" Chaves said after finishing seventh. "The Movistar guys started to attack in the first three kilometres.
"In the final I was riding a good tempo. The last kilometre was really steep and Purito [Rodriguez] attacked and I don't see him, I stayed still and tried to save my position. It's a good progression for me."
Orica GreenEdge believed in Chaves upon his return after his horrific accident in 2013, signing him without knowing whether he would be able to ride at the level he had shown before. After winning stages last year at the Tour of California, and Tour de Suisse, this year has solidified what his team was confident about all along – that his talent was always there and in time his form would return.
Stage 16 is yet another difficult climbing stage with 5000 metres of climbing the order of the stage before the peloton enjoys the final rest day of the three week race.
"Esteban rode a really good final climb and all of the boys did a really good job positioning him in that climb," sport director Neil Stephens said. “He wasn't obsessed with anybody and he rode his own pace.
"Tomorrow is, perhaps going to be the hardest day of the Tour of Spain. It's a solid day right throughout with an extremely hard final climb. If we can walk away with a similar position to what we are now, it'll be a great day."