Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott) is confident that teammate and leader Esteban Chaves will be in the thick of the action in the upcoming Vuelta a España, where the Colombian will be tackling his second Grand Tour of the 2019 season.
Third overall in the 2016 Vuelta behind compatriot Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Chaves had a prolonged battle against illness after last year’s Giro d’Italia, where he faded badly in the second part of the race.
But Chaves was moving in the opposite direction in this year’s Giro, starting quietly but then building towards a fine mountain stage win in the third week at San Martino de Castrozzo. After placing 40th overall in the final GC at the Giro, Chaves then went on to the Tour of Slovenia, where he finished in 6th.
Nieve was part of the Mitchelton-Scott line-up at the Giro and is currently taking part in the Tour de Pologne as his first race back since the Italian Grand Tour. The 35-year-old is confident that Chaves can keep on moving in the right direction in the Vuelta a España.
“We’ll see how the team’s going when we get there, but we’re all very motivated and that goes for Esteban too,” Nieve told Cyclingnews. “Getting back into the Vuelta will be special for him given how hard a time he had last year.
“But he’s coming back little by little, it’s a big objective, and an important one for the team, too.”
Tenth in his own last participation in Pologne back in 2015, Nieve says that he will be hoping for a good result in Eastern Europe’s premier stage race. But he recognises doing something along the lines of Simon Yates last year, who came within a whisker of claiming the overall win from Michal Kwiatkowsi (Team Ineos) would be a big ask for him.
“Repeating second overall and a stage win like Simon last year would be hard for me, but this is my last big race before the Vuelta a España and I will try to do my best,” Nieve said.
“I’d have liked to have done the Clásica [San Sebastián] but at the end of the day, doing a stage race before the Vuelta is a much better idea. We’ve got a week here, and it went well for me the last time so that’s encouraging.”
Recently it emerged that his current teammate Matteo Trentin had signed with CCC for next year. but Nieve was more chary about whether he has finally re-signed for Mitchelton-Scott yet in 2020, saying conversations were “ongoing.” For now, in any case, with Pologne and the Vuelta a España on the menu, he has enough to be thinking about.