Esteban Chaves crossed the line in 40th place on the 21st and final stage of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana to seal fifth place overall. It was the first top-ten Grand Tour finish for Orica GreenEdge and the 25-year-old Colombian who took two stage wins in the first week and spent six days in the race leader's red jersey.
"If someone said after the Giro d'Italia I would finish fifth in the Vuelta a Espana I wouldn't believe," Chaves said. "If they said I would win two stages, I wouldn't believe. That I would wear the red jersey for six days, I wouldn't believe. I need to pinch myself for this. It's one dream. But this is because we worked really hard, not just the last two months but also the last two years."
Orica GreenEdge's previous best GC result at a Grand Tour was Pieter Weening 38th place at the 2013 Giro d'Italia.
Chaves added that his result will only spur him onto further successes in three week races.
"This is not the finish. This is the start line. For sure we will continue to work like this. The more beautiful thing is the results to come."
Sport director Neil Stephens explained that the team's best ever three week set of results and focus on the GC with Chaves is proof they are headed in the right direction.
"We went in thinking a top ten would be a huge challenge given the quality of the line up," Stephens said. "It's been a bit of a change in mentality for the team.
"We've always gone into Grand Tours looking for stage wins or leader's jerseys which we have done incredibly well with. Now this is the next step and rung in the ladder."
A stage win for Grand Tour debutant and first year professional Caleb Ewan, second place on the opening day team time trial and Chaves' stage wins set the scene for the Australian team as Stephens added they quickly realised the opportunity in front of them and grabbed it with two hands.
"It was a really exciting first week," Stephens added. "Emotions were high from the very first team time trial – whether it would count, whether we would go for the win – and then to come so close. To bounce back the next day to take the stage and red jersey was incredible. Then for Caleb to take a stage… A guy who came in with a bit of pressure, to come out of the shadows and win the only stage he was up for was quite amazing. All of this capped off with another amazing stage to Esteban.
"Then we took a step back, regrouped and realised we could achieve something special across these full three weeks."
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