Chaves dismisses pressure ahead of Vuelta a Espana
"Most important is to enjoy the race" says Orica leader
Esteban Chaves (Orica BikeExchange) may head into the Vuelta a Espana as one the leading podium contenders but the pint-sized Colombian climber is not putting any undue pressure on his own shoulders.
"This race is not just about the ambitions of Esteban Chaves, it's about the ambitions of Orica BikeExchange," he told Cyclingnews on the eve of the race.
The Vuelta starts on Saturday and Chaves has been talked up as one of the leading overall contenders after his second place in the Giro d'Italia in May. However was quick to point out that any success he achieved would be through the help of his teammates.
During the Giro d'Italia, Chaves cemented his place as not just a sublimely talented climber and GC rider but also one of the most relaxed athletes within the bunch. He may have succumbed to Vincenzo Nibali's late onslaught in the Giro - dropping from first to second on the final mountain stage - but Chaves has become Orica's talisman and a popular figure in and out of the Australian squad's camp.
It's that carefree and relaxed demeanour that has set Chaves apart from many of his rivals. Granted, the Vuelta is a million miles away from the dialled in frenzy of the Tour de France, but the climber is taking his typical attitude into the final Grand Tour of the season.
"Pressure? Never. Why? Obviously I feel nervous but never pressure. I live for the bike, but pressure, I don't feel that [pressure].
The question over Chaves's current form will only be answered in the first week of the Vuelta with the opening team time trial followed by a plethora of punchy uphill finishes. Climb as he did in last year's race and the leader's jersey could be on his shoulders by the end of the first week. However he has only raced once since the Giro - placing 29th in the Olympic Games road race – choosing instead to prepare for the race at home in Colombia.
"I actually don't know about my form. The last stage race I did was the Giro and since then I've only raced the Olympics. We'll see. I like to keep things calm and just go stage by stage. For now the focus is on the team time trial. The Australians do that discipline really well so we'll try and cover that as well as possible," he told Cyclingnews.
"After the Giro I was sick for three weeks and just needed to recover and prepare for the Vuelta in Colombia. I did the Olympic Games and we've trained well with some work for the time trials and some motor pacing – nothing crazy, just normal training for this sort of racing."
"There are ten stages that finish on climbs. We'll try and stay at the front and see if it's possible to win a few and then of course try and not lose time to some of the strong guys. Actually the final week is decisive for the race."
If Chaves is to step onto the podium in Madrid he will have to see off one of Alberto Contador, Chris Froome or Nairo Quintana – the three biggest favourites for overall honours.
"It's a strong field and for me Alberto is the most dangerous because he's the most hungry after the Tour de France. He's also a fantastic rider but Froome and Quintana will also be in good shape. One thing is certain, the race should be spectacular for the people watching on television."
However Chaves performs it's likely that his team will be crucial to his final placing on GC. Ever the talisman, he is looking to spread his calming influence throughout the team.
"We have a really good mix here with experience and youth. It's a really good group and they're all happy. I've said to all of them, and to the management, that the most important thing is to enjoy the Vuelta."
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.