Colombian cycling fans had reasons to be cheerful and reasons to be concerned at Calar Alto as Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) took a spectacular Vuelta a España stage win but Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) lost two minutes and came with three seconds of disappearing from the provisional podium.
On a tough day for the Australian team, Chaves fell off the pace at the point when Bahrain-Merida took to the front of the main group on the ascent to the stage 11 finish at Calar Alto. Plans for a pincer movement with teammate Simon Yates already up the road came to nought, as Chaves tried instead to limit his losses. To cap it all, Adam Yates, Orica-Scott's second GC option, lost over nine minutes.
Chaves remains in contention, but his time loss of two minutes means he has dropped to third overall, at 2:33 from race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), and has Spain's David De La Cruz (Quick Step Floors) snapping at his heels time-wise, just three seconds further back.
"There was a point where Nibali attacked and it was important to keep a good rhythm and minimize the losses," Chaves said afterwards. "Some days are good and some days not. We had a strategy with Simon Yates going off the front, but sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. The important thing is to try."
When asked what had happened to him, Chaves answered simply and with a smile, "I was tired and that's all there is to it. It was really tough for everybody in the weather and the team worked really well.
"After Nibali attacked, I lost his wheel, but I had Jack [Haig] with me and we tried to limit the gaps."
Sky's Chris Froome said he was surprised by Chaves time loss, "particularly seeing how Orica rode so hard at the foot of the penultimate climb, I was waiting for a big attack from him. But sometimes on days like today, it all catches up with you, maybe today fueling was a problem, maybe it was the weather. But I'm pretty sure he'll bounce back."
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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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