Esteban Chaves enjoyed a quiet day in the peloton during stage 18 to Pinerolo, admitting to Cyclingnews that he is tired but ready to give his all as he tries to crack Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and try to win the Giro d'Italia.
The friendly Colombian is currently second overall in the general classification, 3:00 down on Kruijswijk, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 23 seconds behind him. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is fourth at 4:43 and the likes of Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) and Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) are further back but still a threat.
The Alpine stages to Risoul on Friday and Sant'Anna di Vinadio on Saturday will decide who fills which steps on the final Giro d'Italia podium in Turin on Sunday. Chaves has had an impressive race so far, winning the spectacular and tough mountain stage to Corvara in the Dolomites. He will have to attack Kruijswijk on the high mountains in the hope his Colombian roots give him a rare-air advantage. However, he will also have to defend his second place.
"The Giro d'Italia is only over when it's over," Chaves told Cyclingnews with a mix of determination and trepidation.
"The other day Alvaro Crespi [the Orica-GreenEdge Financial Director –Ed] told me how Cadel Evans was in the maglia rosa (at the 2002 Giro d'Italia) but then lost 17 minutes on the last climb of the race. Anything can happen in cycling, we're only human."
"Look at what happened to Tom Dumoulin last year at the Vuelta a Espana. He was leading the ace but lost it to Aru. I don't know if that will happen to Kruijswijk or if it happens to me. We'll try to do our very best, both me and the team, and we'll see what happens. Whatever happens we'll be happy."
Chaves revealed to Cyclingnews that he has not done a detailed reconnaissance of the big climbs of the two decisive stages but he is not concerned.
"I've ridden the climb up to Risoul one time, during the Tour de l'Avenir but I don't know the other climbs," he said. "It's not a problem because I prefer to take things day by day, stage by stage. I'll worry the big climbs when we get to them. At this point in the Giro, we've got to take things one big climbs at a time."
A tired Hummingbird
Chaves is now known as he 'Colibri' –the hummingbird' in Italy after his consistent ride at the Giro d'Italia. He was cheered and happily posed for selfies with Colombian fans and Italian friends before the start of the stage, with the Colombians calling his diminutive name of 'Chavito' as they wished him well.
"It's always great to see Colombian fans and see the friends who helped me when I first raced in Italy. Of course it also gives you more responsibility, adds a bit of pressure," he explained.
"But that's part of cycling and its nice to see so many people cheering for me and reaching out to me via social media from the world. I can only thank them."
Chaves spoke with slightly tired voice after almost three weeks of intense racing.
"Yeah I'm tired…. But I think we're all tired," he said. "But I want to do well and we all want to give our very best over the next two days."
Stage 18 video highlights
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