While lots of other riders were losing time, their heads and perhaps a chance of victory at the Giro d'Italia, Esteban Chaves and his Orica-GreenEdge team continued to race with confidence and a smile.
After Alejandro Valverde cracked on the stage through the Dolomites on Saturday, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) a bad day in the 10.8km mountain time trial, losing 2:10 to race leader Steven Kruijswijk (Orica-GreenEdge) and 1:30 to Chaves. The Colombian managed to jump over Nibali in the overall classification and is now 2:12 down on Kruijswijk.
After his huge effort in the time trial, Orica-GreenEdge ensured that Chaves was given time to recover in the team's mini-van parked close to the finish. Other riders were mobbed by the many television crews, journalists and photographers but by the time the door opened, Chaves was smiling again and understandably happy with his ride against the clock.
Directeur sportif Matt White joked post-stage that Chaves only stops smiling when he's asleep ,and he is certainly ever-optimistic and is understandingly enjoying this Giro d'Italia.
"I'm really tired. I think everyone is really, really tired too, but we're also really happy because as a team Orica-GreenEdge has some excellent results. I can only thank the team again. We tried to do the max and this is the result," Chaves said in English after an even happier exchange with the Colombian television crews that share his happy go lucky spirit.
"I suffered a lot today but we've worked hard for this. Now after three big mountain stages things are looking good for me, for the team and so we're very happy. This is the first time Orica-GreenEdge has really targeted a Grand Tour victory and so far thing are going really well. We did the maximum we could and this is the result. We'll keep our feet on the ground though and stay focused because we know it won't be easy."
More on the story:
- Nibali's Giro d'Italia challenge dealt major blow in Alpe di Siusi time trial
- Kruijswijk keeps his feet on the ground despite taking control of the Giro d'Italia
- Valverde: Anything could happen in final week of Giro d'Italia
- Giro d'Italia stage 15 - Finish line quotes
- Giro d'Italia stage 15 highlights - Video
- Giro d'Italia: Stage 15 report, results and photos
A costly slow start
Chaves admitted he awoke tired but happy this morning after winning Saturday's Queen stage in the Dolomites. He proved to be as strong as Kruijswijk on the climbs and has distanced the likes of Nibali, Valverde, Rafal Majka, Ilnur Zakarin and Rigoberto Uran.
Chaves lost 40 seconds to Kruijswijk in the 10.8km time trial but official time splits showed that his loss came on the first 4.4km of the course, most likely on the 1.8km of flat roads at the start. He was 44 seconds slower than Kruijswijk after 4.4km but pulled back tome on the rest of the course.
"It's not true that I didn't push that much at the beginning, I was pushing all the way," Chaves argued.
"I think I did a good ride. It was a hard day as I expected but we're happy, it's another day safe. Tomorrow is a rest day and then after tomorrow we'll start to think about next week. We're going to continue as we have so far in the race, to be competitive for three full weeks."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.