Chaves to kick off 2017 season in Australia
Colombian to make Australian racing debut with Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans race, and Herald Sun Tour
Esteban Chaves will kick off his 2017 season in Australia, putting his name down for the Tour Down Under, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour.
It will be the first time the Colombian has raced in Australia, and the first time he's begun a campaign as early as January.
Chaves was one of the star riders of the 2016 season – finishing second at the Giro d'Italia, third at the Vuelta a España, and winning Il Lombardia – and the powers that be at the Australian Orica-BikeExchange team will no doubt have been keen for him to make an appearance down under.
"These races are super important for Orica-BikeExchange. We can only race in Australia for these three races each year so I am happy to be with them for this," said the 26-year-old in a statement from the team. "The boys are super motivated to race near their homes and I am a little bit Australian now so I am happy for this too."
Chaves has only been to Australia on one occasion – a training camp in late 2013 ahead of his debut season with the WorldTour outfit.
"Actually, I don't have the best memories of last time I was in Australia," he added. "I didn't speak English so couldn't speak with anyone and also I was suffering a lot in the training. For sure this time will be a lot different.
"When I go to a new place I like to see how the local people live, what the local people eat, what the local people do, the culture and mentality. I am super excited to look at all these different things, understand Australians even more and learn why Australians are super nice people with everyone."
In the past two seasons Chaves has kicked things off with one-day outings in France at the end of February, but the decision to head to Australia has seen him pick up the bike earlier in the off-season, back in his native Colombia. It's a similar calendar change to the one made by Chris Froome this year, with the Team Sky rider winning the Herald Sun Tour before going on to win the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de France later in the season.
"He [Froome] is obviously happy with how he did last season in winning the Herald Sun Tour and then winning the Tour de France, so maybe we can copy that," Chaves told the Herald Sun newspaper.
It has not yet been confirmed which Grand Tours Chaves will ride in 2017. A Tour de France debut has been talked about but recent speculation has suggested he will once again make the Giro d'Italia his priority. Either way, the Australia trip is all about engaging with the team's fanbase.
"If the results come it's more than welcome ... but more important is enjoyment; enjoying the race and enjoying Australia and if there's an opportunity where I can choose to go super hard, I will," said Chaves.
"It's the first time I'm going to be racing in Australia and I want to try to give the best performance I can," he said.
Chaves' early 2017 calendar
January 14-22: Tour Down Under (Adelaide)
January 29: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (Victoria)
February 1-5: Jayco Herald Sun Tour (Victoria)
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