Two years after his career was almost ended, Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) took the biggest victory of his career with an intelligent win on Caminito del Rey in the second stage of the Vuelta a España. Chaves also moved into the leader’s jersey, taking it from Peter Velits (BMC). Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) put in a great effort to finish second with Nicolas Roche (Sky) taking third.
The final climb was a relative step into the unknown as the peloton charged onto it with Tinkoff-Saxo at the helm. Chaves bridged across to a late attack that was initiated by Nairo Quintana (Movistar) with just three kilometres remaining. He looked in commanding form as he stormed past the trio and almost immediately put his fellow Colombian into serious trouble. Roche tried to attack but it was a last ditch effort from the Irishman who could only sit and watch as the Chaves and Dumoulin rode away in the final kilometre.
The constantly changing gradient made it difficult for a rider like Dumoulin to get into a steady rhythm. The big Dutchman, who is coming back from his Tour de France crash, put in a great effort to hold onto the Orica-GreenEdge rider. Dumoulin had a go into the final corner but he was no match for Chaves, who distanced him with one final dig. The victory was enough to put him into the red leader’s jersey with a five-second lead over Dumoulin after taking the bonus seconds into account.
"I felt that this was my moment to do it for the team, I felt like I was in a good position and in the end I did it and I got this jersey," Chaves said after the stage, grinning from ear to ear. "We talked among ourselves and how to deal with everyone around us and the main thing to do was to attack these guys, so that’s what we did. Roche and Dumoulin were good company and we got there in the end.
"At this point I’ve just got to keep going and be happy about this day and think about it tomorrow. The team was incredible, my teammates did a good job."
It is only Chaves’ second season back after suffering a serious crash at the 2013 Trofeo Laigueglia that nearly ended his career.
Behind them, the short climb had done some damage to the peloton as the GC contenders trickled over the line in ones and twos. Quintana came over 26 seconds behind Chaves with Katusha’s Joaquim Rodríguez, while Chris Froome (Team Sky) was a further four seconds back. Astana’s galacticos took a small battering with Fabio Aru the top performer in 10th place.
How it happened
It would be starting from scratch for the peloton after no general classification times were taken on the opening day. Velits would be the ceremonial race leader after his BMC team edged out Tinkoff-Saxo in a closely fought team time trial. Beginning in Alhaurín de la Torre, the race would take the peloton 158.7 kilometres to the new summit finish of Caminito del Rey.
It was a very quick start to the day and some riders got into trouble early on with Matteo Pelucchi getting involved in a crash after just two kilometres. The Italian was hanging off the back as Movistar drove the peloton and would soon become the first abandonment of the Vuelta a España. It wasn’t until after 20 kilometres that a six-man breakaway got up the road.
The lucky riders were Nelson Oliviera (Lampre-Merida), Davide Villella (Cannondale-Garmin), Walter Pedraza (Team Colombia), Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo), José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale). With a lot at stake today, they were given a maximum of just over three minutes and a successful day out looked unlikely. The forged on, working well together to maintain the advantage. There were a few minor incidents in the bunch but the action didn’t pick up again until the first climb of the day the Alto de Ardales at kilometre 108. Pedraza struck out near the top to take the mountains points on the third category ascent.
Their time out front was numbered by the Ardales as the combined forces of Movistar and Katusha brought the gap down to just over a minute. It looked set to be a straightforward catch, followed by a duel between the punchy climbers up Caminito del Rey. However, a huge crash with 30 kilometres remaining caught out most of the peloton, including GC hopeful Vincenzo Nibali. His Astana teammate Paolo Tiralongo had also come down and was bleeding profusely from the top of his head. After a long wait for new bikes, they were both back on their way but it would be a lengthy chase for Nibali to get back onto the peloton, which he would eventually do.
Cyril Gautier (Europcar) was the first rider to try his hand but Quintana put an end to his chances with three kilometres to go. The Colombian had Roche and Dumoulin with him and they distanced the main group. After being set up by his team, Chaves launched a move across the gap and nearly sailed right past the leading trio. The steepest ramps towards the top took their toll and Quintana was the first to crack.
Inside the final kilometre, Roche attacked but almost immediately found himself going backwards and it was down to two. Dumoulin went first but it was Chaves who had the legs and took the stage win.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge||3:57:25|
|2||Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:01|
|3||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky||0:00:09|
|4||Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team||0:00:14|
|5||Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha||0:00:26|
|6||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||0:00:30|
|8||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:00:37|
|11||Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky||0:00:41|
|12||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka||0:00:42|