So near yet so far. Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange) put a brave face on a brutal defeat on Thursday’s stage 4 of the Itzulia Basque Country where he was by far the most active rider but was finally pipped at the line by his breakaway companions.
Having recently confirmed he was on the comeback trail when he soloed to victory in the toughest stage of the Volta a Catalunya in addition to a second place on stage , Chaves came to Itzulia Basque Country looking for another stage win at the least – and he almost got it in Hondarribia.
But after launching multiple moves in the last 25 kilometres and getting in on the winning break of the day, his last, desperate roll of the dice with a kilometre to go was swamped by his breakaway companions, and he had to settle for sixth.
Chaves has moved into the top 15 overall, thanks to his breakaway efforts, and that as he pointed out is no small matter. But as he put it, “of course I’m disappointed, but the important thing is to play the game.”
“It was a very hard day, very aggressive from the start, and things went really fast all the way through,” Chaves told reporters afterwards.
“On that last climb, the team had put me in a great place and I tried to go for it. And then I went for it again over the top, and all the way through to the end, and then again at the finish, when I tried to to get ahead before the final sprint. But I was 100 metres short of my target.”
A former resident of Oiartzun, a nearby town, Chaves said that his knowledge of the local roads had both inspired him and helped him in his efforts.
“I really wanted to do well today, it’s the type of racing that suits me the best, and so is Saturday, too. I felt like I was at home today.”
“Hats off to all the work the boys did for me, too, and I wanted to pay them back.”
Asked if he felt he had given it his all, Chaves said with a laugh, “everything, and more. I almost die out there.”
“But this is why cycling is such a beautiful thing. Of course I’m disappointed, but the important thing is to play the game.”
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