The ever-smiling climber, who won two stages and finished fifth at the Vuelta a Espana, has enjoyed a break through season. He is now set to win the first edition of the four-day stage race, which ends with a 110km twilight stage on the Yas Marina Formula One circuit. He leads Fabio Aru (Astana) by 16 seconds, with Wout Poels (Team Sky) at 27 seconds. It will be Chaves' first professional stage race victory, after winning the Tour de l'Avenir as a 21-year-old amateur. Now 25, and after recovering from multiple fractures and serious injuries in a crash at the 2013 Trofeo Laigueglia, he is one of the revelations of the 2015 season.
"I hadn't thought about that. I won l'Avenir but yeah, if I win it will be my first stage race victory. For sure it would be pretty big," he acknowledged.
"I've had a dream once I was five of wanting to win the Tour de France one day. I've not ridden the Tour yet but I've done the Giro and the Vuelta twice. There's still a long way to go in my dream but this year was really important for my career. I can now say I can be competitive in a three-week race. Next year maybe I can try for one big Grand Tour again and see what the results are."
"I think the confidence I have now has not come from my recent victories but from the good work before the victories. I mean the discipline and sacrifices that all came before I won. I now know that if I train, eat well, rest, do the stretching and core work, do it all, it's possible. What others might do is out of my hands but now we know it possible to win."
Chaves made a strong attack on the wide but twisting road that snaked up the edge of the rocky Jabel Hafeet mountain that dominates the border between Abu Dhabi and Oman. Only Poels was able to gradually close the gap but the Dutchman crashed on the final corner, slipping out on the adverse camber. Chaves avoided hitting him, passed, and won alone. Sportingly he did not celebrate his victory
"I can only say sorry to Poels for what happened to him but that's a race situation," Chaves said. "When I won I didn't think it was correct to raise my arms and celebrate. I won but that's sport."
"I honestly don't know if I'd have won without the crash. It was a 180 degree corner and you do need to take risks in a sprint into the last corner."
Chaves suffered in the heat as temperatures again were close to 40C. Fortunately the final stage finishes after sunset when temperatures ease to below 30C.
"This was the hottest race of my life," Chaves said. "Today I used between 30 and 35 bottles of water to stay cool. We used ice bags on our arms and legs to keep the body temperature as low as possible but its really difficult to race in the desert. I hope it's less warm tomorrow because we race in evening. It should be five to seven degrees cooler which will be a big help."
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