Fifth place on stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana for Esteban Chaves saw the Orica-BikeExchange rider improve his overall standing from 15th to fourth and confirm he has arrived in Spain with a podium position well within his grasp.
The 26-year-old won two stages of the 2015 Vuelta on his way to fifth overall and confirmed his grand tour potential with second place at the Giro d'Italia in May. The stage 3 finish at Mirador de Ézaro was Chaves' first real GC test since the final mountain stage of the Giro, impressing sports director Neil Stephens.
"It was a very solid stage today," said Stephens. "The whole region of Galicia is up and down and some of the terrain is very challenging, especially in the heat we’ve been experiencing. All of the guys did a great job again today and we've chalked up another good result. We protected Esteban (Chaves) very well and then he rode superbly up the demanding final climb for a strong finish."
Chaves finished the stage, won by Alexandre Geniez, on the same time as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) conceding six seconds to the trio. However, it a was a worse day for Chaves' overall rivals with the likes of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) losing 28 seconds, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) over seven minutes, while Miguel Ángel López (Astana), who crashed on approach to the Erazo, lost 12 minutes to all but end his GC aspirations.
Simon Yates, on his Vuelta debut, finished the stage in 41st place to move into 11th overall and strengthen Orica-BikeExchange's bid of the general classification.
"We are happy with our position at the moment and Simon Yates also performed strongly in the finale today and is now 11th overall. It is very satisfying to see our hard work come to fruition on the tough stages like today," added Stephens.
With nine summit finishes to come, the Vuelta is far from over, while the stage 4 cat 2 finish at San Andrés de Teixido offering an immediate shot as redemption with another shake up on GC is expected to take place.
Vuelta a Espana - Stage 3 Video Highlights