Like Chris Froome in 2016, Esteban Chaves is hoping to have laid the foundations for Grand Tour success with overall victory at the Herald Sun Tour. While the Sky rider parlayed his Australian win into triumph at the Tour de France, Chaves is eyeing the Giro d'Italia in May following his Australian triumph.
Second overall at the Italian Grand Tour and third at the Vuelta a España in 2016, Chaves' 2017 season was compromised by an early-season knee injury and ended early with a broken shoulder sustained at Giro dell'Emilia.
Having started his season with a barnstorming 17-kilometre solo raid to net the stage win at Lake Mountain and set up his overall win at the Herald Sun Tour, the early prognosis is that Chaves will be back to his Grand Tour level of 2016. The 28-year-old confirmed that the three-week races best suit his characteristics.
"The Grand Tours are the better races for me so this is the big objective for me and we continue to try for this for the rest of my career with this team, who I hope I will finish my career with," said Chaves.
The Herald Sun Tour victory was the first phase of 'operation maglia rosa' with Chaves heading to Israel then Italy for his third Corsa Rosa. His experiences at the Sun Tour were all part of the plan and process.
"It is a great start. Races like this one and Cadel Evans race show a good performance … be comfortable in the bunch and don't be panicked," Chaves said of the start of the year. "You always need to be open to learning and we are open to learning any time. Even when you have the yellow jersey you are still learning all the time."
Speaking after his podium commitments alongside teammates Cameron Meyer and Damien Howson, Chaves was full of praise for his young colleagues.
"This feels like a home race. Everyone worked really well in this off-season and you can see this on the podium. Not just these guys," he said. "Hepburn pulled for like three hours today and five hours yesterday, four hours the day before. So the performance of the guys is really good. You see they are lean as well so everyone is super committed and super focused and you can see results, this does not surprise me as Damien and Cameron are world champions."
The Herald Sun Tour experience bodes well for his upcoming European races in preparation for the Giro, starting at Paris-Nice. But first, Chaves simply wanted to enjoy in the moment.
"Today we need to enjoy this jersey, it is a really good one. I think it is the second general classification I have won in my professional career so it is a beautiful race here at home," said Chaves.
With the Herald Sun Tour in his pocket, Chaves' long road to Rome has begun. Four months out from the Giro is still a long time but in the fight for pink, Chaves has put out notice he means business.