Having led the race and won two stages, up-and-coming Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) continues to turn in one solid ride after another in the Vuelta a España, and Saturday’s first of three mountain top finishes was no exception.
Eighth on the stage in the same time as Fabio Aru and continuing as leader of the points classification ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Chaves strong showing at Alto Campoo means he has gained a place overall, too, moving up to fourth ahead of Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
“The last part of the climb was very hard, Astana’s racing there reminded me of how they were riding in the Giro d’Italia,” where the Kazakh squad dominated on almost all the mountain stages, Chaves said.
“But I’m pleased to be up there with the best of them, although there are two really tough mountain stages to come and we have to take things step by step.”
“My goal is to try and defend my overall placing and if I can, improve it.”
Chaves added that he was very pleased to see that fellow-Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has recovered from his illness. “He suffered a lot yesterday [Friday] and today [Saturday] he was racing really well. He’s a real star.”
As for Chaves, currently 1:29 behind Fabio Aru (Astana), regardless of what happens between here and Madrid, the Vuelta has already been a huge success story for the Orica-GreenEdge rider. Having won the first mountaintop finish in El Caminito del Rey on stage two, Chaves held the lead for almost all of the first week, as well as taking a second triumph in Cazorla on stage six.
The big question was whether, given his relative inexperience in fighting for top places overall, he could hold on into the second half of the Vuelta. But showing so well in the first of the three summit finishes remaining in the Vuelta augurs very well for a strong finale to the race for the Colombian as well.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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