Starting the day with the aim of winning Orica-Scott's third straight stage of the Tour Down Under, Esteban Chaves could only watch as Richie Porte (BMC Racing) blasted away from his rivals to take a fourth win in as many years on Willunga Hill.
While yet to race the Tour de France, Chaves described the atmosphere on the climb as the same level at the French grand tour, adding that having roadside fans call him name ensured it was a “special” and “beautiful” day's racing.
The result on Willunga Hill with Porte first and Chaves third was the same as the stage two hilltop finish in Paracombe but the recently turned 27-year-old explained there is no easy comparison of the two climbs.
"This is double Willunga but Paracombe is steeper. It is different. Also, the Paracombe stage for me is I think was harder in comparison to this one because it is close to three thousand meters climbing. Up and down, the circuit in Stirling is not easy and this one is just seven minutes. We can't compare, totally different the climbs and still a great guy, the same guy, wins."
Chaves crossed the line in third place to move up to second overall ahead of Sunday's sixth and final stage on a city street circuit in Adelaide. While Porte's victory is all but assured with a 48-second buffer, Chaves has Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) at three and six seconds respectively to watch in the battle for the podium.
"We fight for the podium. At the moment I am second on GC and I am happy to start the season in this form. It is really well and we work really well. We can't complain, we won three stages with Caleb and second overall for the moment so we are really happy," said Chaves who is racing in Australia for the first time in his career and hasn't finished on the podium of a one-week WorldTour race since the 2014 Tour of Beijing.
Chaves' two Tour Down Under podium challengers have shown their sprint prowess across the week and are likely to roll the dice and chase bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints in order to move up the standings. Orica-Scott will be working for Caleb Ewan's fourth stage win of the race and will likely use a Daryl Impey in a policeman's role to snap up the time bonuses and protect Chaves' second place finish.
The close standings ensure the final day's racing should be a tight, tactical and robust day on the bike.