Esteban Chaves has proven himself in the Grand Tours and shorter stage races this year by winning two stages and leading the Vuelta a Espana for six days, ultimately finishing fifth overall, and claiming the overall victory in the Abu Dhabi Tour thanks to his win on Jebel Hafeet. The Colombian is primed for the 2016 season in which he will likely target success in both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana as stepping stones toward his Tour de France debut the following year.
Chaves spoke through his agent Giuseppe Acquadro about his breakthrough 2015 season and his goals for the future.
Q: What is your assessment of 2015? The second half was much better than the first, why?
Esteban Chaves: I'm very happy. The season half (of the season) is the reward for so much effort and work, perseverance and discipline. We are beginning to reap the rewards. The second part of the season kept getting better for me, and most of my wins have come there. I don't know exactly why. Perhaps because of the weather. The first part of the year was very cold and I wasn't going well. I hope I can change that.
Q: What changed between the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Spain?
A: Most importantly I gained the motivation to train. Also, I trained in Colombia and the elevation there is formidable. I am at 2,600 metres above sea level and have climbs that end at 3,500. I can do almost 200 kilometres at that altitude, and that is a very important advantage. Nairo (Quintana) or Rigoberto (Uran) almost always achieve their best results when they return to train in Colombia.
Q: What is your assessment of your fifth place in the Tour of Spain a month and a half after?
A: We enjoyed it at the time and now I have my feet on the ground. It is not just because of the fifth place, but because we have fought and worked hard, the team believed in me and I in them. If we achieved this, we can achieve a lot, so we will continue with the same effort and dedication they have taken since I started with this team last year.
Q: After that, you showed yourself in Lombardy and outperformed Nibali and Aru in Abu Dhabi.
A: To end the year with a win is great because it gives you confidence and a good memory throughout the winter. And it is my first victory in a stage race as a professional. Lombardy is a race I like because I have a great affinity with these climbs. My early career was in Bergamo, I know the ascents and the people, and it is something special. Finishing eighth is fine but having finished eighth with the legs I had that that day leaves a bad taste. We failed in some things in the preparation but we learned a lesson and will return in the coming years.
Q: After two Grand Tours and 74 days of competition, you get to rest in Andorra.
A: When you have to work hard, you work hard and when it comes to rest ... you rest hard (laughs). I am in Andorra and not going back to Colombia until the first week of December. Andorra is lovely, it is a peaceful country and it is great for a rest. It has many routes for walking and Svein (Tuft), Simon Gerrans, and Carlos Verona are also here ... We want to get to know the country. And it is perfect for training during the season.
Giro and Vuelta in 2016
Q: Matt White, your directeur sportif, said in an interview that you would race the Giro d'Italia and Tour of Spain, is that true?
A: I read the interview and it gave a little idea of what the season plan would be. He wants me to race the Giro and Vuelta, and do the Tour with Yates. That is the overall plan. The goal is to race two Grand Tours and be able to compete in both. That would be ideal. We will confirm the programme in the first team camp in Spain in January.
Q: The Giro d'Italia presented its 2016 edition, what did you think?
A: I like the route a lot, especially because there are not as many transfers. Sure, we start in the Netherlands and then travel to southern Italy, but that's it. The Giro has accustomed us to very tough stages, with a lot of climbing. I find it interesting that it has stages above 2,500 metres in May, so it will be hard because of the cold, and maybe snow. The time trial in Tuscany is 40 kilometres but has hardly any flat ground, and doing well in a time trial? Imagine that!
Q: You showed progress in the time trial at the Tour of Burgos in Spain...
A: Yes! I have struggled the most to improve in this discipline, but with the Australians I found a very good way to work and am seeing progress. We will continue that road. It's fundamental. You do 200 kilometres and arrive with the same time, or within ten seconds of the leader, and do 40 or 30 against the clock and lose 3-4 minutes. That is not really possible.
Q: Your dream is to one day win the Tour de France but you have not yet debuted.
A: If things continue like this, I will debut in the Tour in 2017. It would mean debut at 27 years of age. There is time. It is true that my sporting progression is a little behind my peers. We go step by step. I don't think you can go to the Tour to learn, you have to come armed and ready.