If Chris Froome (Team Sky) completed some unfinished business on the Cumbre del Sol summit finish on Sunday, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) was also satisfied despite narrowly missing out on a Vuelta a España stage victory.
Four seconds behind Froome at the stage 9 finish but gaining time on the rest of the field, Chaves has opened up his advantage on all his rivals apart from Froome, which is one reason to be satisfied. But as the 27-year-old Colombian pointed out, this was a much better result than in 2015 when he lost the overall lead on Cumbre del Sol to Dumoulin after fading badly and shipping nearly a minute to the leaders. Last but not least, he is in second place overall going into the rest day and has confirmed he is in top form after his difficult Tour de France.
Chaves recounted that he had thought he could catch Froome at the finish line, but despite closing the gap in the last 100 metres, there was a point when Froome had looked back and opened up the throttle again. "He showed there's a reason why he has won four Tours de France," Chaves said afterwards.
"But for me it's a really good result, two years ago I lost time on this climb, so today is a very different story. I am more matured, more experienced, calmer and that is the important thing."
"We've kept second on the GC, we gained time on the other guys." Previously he was only 13 seconds ahead of Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) but now the advantage has broadened to 29 seconds.
"The team has worked unbelievably strongly, as always, and my thanks to them for working so well. We've got a very young team here, only one rider over 30 and I'm very happy with how they've performed. We've had nine hard days and now it's time to rest."
Chaves said that the stage had been hard all round, because he didn't think that Cannondale-Drapac would put in so much work on the approach roads, and that the rest day would be welcome as a time to be "chilled and talk with the family."
There is plenty for him to be upbeat about if he is asked about the race. After his third place in last year's Vuelta, and despite a slight wobble on yesterday's stage to Xorret de Catí, where he lost 17 seconds to Froome, Chaves remains within touching distance of the Briton. The crucial tests now are in the second week of major mountain climbs, far longer than anything raced so far in this Vuelta a España and also reaching altitudes of well over 2,000 metres above sea level. If the Colombian is to put Froome under serious pressure between here and Madrid, this is a arguably where Chaves will have to strike the hardest.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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