Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) put a brave face on a tough day in the Logroño time trial as his Vuelta a España GC hopes took a significant hit with a 45th place on the time trial and a time loss of over four minutes on stage winner Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Previously fifth at 2:39, Chaves slumped to ninth at 6:40 after his lackluster performance. The chances of even repeating his third place in Madrid last year now look increasingly remote, but the ever-upbeat Colombian insisted that he would battle on despite the big setback.
Sweating heavily in the blazing afternoon heat in Logroño, Chaves admitted afterward that it had been a very difficult day and that he had "suffered a lot." Being overtaken by Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), his two-minute man, did not help boost his morale. Even though he had not yet been informed of the time gaps when he talked to reporters, it must have indicated that he was in for a hammering time-wise.
"It was tough, very hot, there were a lot of straightaways and your position on the bike was crucial," Chaves said afterward. "I still don't know the result, but my feelings weren't the best and I suffered a lot."
As a non-specialist against the clock, Chaves said he had been braced for a difficult day at the office. "It was really hard, I knew it would probably be the hardest of all the race for me and it ended up being like this. I was prepared for that, and we'll see what happens in the coming days. For sure we'll try something in the days to come."
Being caught by Kelderman, he said, was not at all encouraging, particularly given it had happened on an uphill "which are usually the best part for me. He caught me really quickly, now we will see what happens, but I'm glad this day is over."
"I don't know how much time I've lost, but I will try to get time back in the mountains. It's the only way for me."
Chaves will certainly have an opportunity to try and bounce back in the four remaining stages. The biggest decision to be made, whether he now focusses on stage wins or still holds out hopes for the GC, will probably only be resolved on how he performs against the time trialists on Wednesday's ascent to los Machucos.