Chaves in second at the Giro d’Italia after a brave fight on stage twenty

Sat 28 May 2016

Esteban Chaves fought valiantly in the race leader's pink jersey on a brutally difficult stage 20 of the Giro d’Italia today, moving into second on the general classification ahead of tomorrow’s final stage.

Queen stage winner Chaves and his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates gave everything throughout the stage, maintaining control until the attacks from Tinkoff and Astana split the race in the final 30kilometres.

Colombian Chaves was alone with ten kilometres remaining when Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) capitalised on the work of his teammates and broke clear. Chaves closed the first attack but not the second with Nibali pulling away, eventually crossing the line over a minute ahead and taking the race lead.

“Today was really hard,” said an exhausted Chaves at the finish. “I don’t want to make any excuses because we gave it everything today. I didn’t have the legs and that’s how it happened when I got dropped.”

“I am very proud of my teammates and how they were fighting. It has been an incredible Giro d’Italia and tomorrow we will have the last stage. After that we can celebrate everything we have achieved.

“I really think that this is just the beginning for me and for ORICA-GreenEDGE in Grand Tour races so for sure other opportunities will come.”

At the end of the stage sport director Matt white spoke of his pride in the efforts of Chaves and ORICA-GreenEDGE.

“Esteban (Chaves) gave it everything,” said White. “We are very proud of him and all the boys on the team.”

“Vincenzo (Nibali) has been very strong the last two days and Esteban gave it everything he could and that’s all we can ask of him, this is another great experience for him and the team.”

“We were fifth at the Vuelta a Espana last year,” continued White. “Now we are second at the Giro d’Italia behind one of the best Grand Tour riders of recent years and there’s certainly no disgrace in that.”

How it happened:

The penultimate stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia got underway in the French Alpine town of Guillestre this morning with large crowds lining the streets and 134kilometres and three huge climbs to come.

Race leader Chaves was at the front of the peloton for the roll out through the neutral zone with the serious racing starting as soon as the flag dropped. The Col de Vars began only a couple of kilometres out of town and the peloton split apart immediately.

Mikel Nieve (Team-Sky) instigated the first attack that formed the lead group of eight riders including Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). The group developed a lead of two minutes within the first 15kilometres as Sam Bewley and Svein Tuft took control for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the front of the peloton.

Chaves had Ruben Plaza and Damien Howson alongside him with Amets Txurruka and Michael Hepburn a few wheels ahead behind Bewley. The pace was high and the peloton was already slightly reduced and filled with nervous energy as the favourites marked each other closely.

The eight leaders had over six minutes as ORICA-GreenEDGE led peloton over the summit of the Col de Vars with 110kilomtres to go and the 22kilometre Col de la Bonette up next.

The breakaway group began to attack each other repeatedly on the low slopes of the Bonette with Nieve going clear and creating close to a two-minute gap. Accelerations also occurred in the bunch as Movistar moved to the front and tried to shake things up.

Chaves was left with Bewley, Howson, Txurruka and Plaza as the gradient reached 10% with 75kilometres to go and Movistar setting the tempo. Over ten minutes separated lone leader Nieve and the Chaves group when Nieve reached the top of the snow covered Col de la bonette.

Alejandro Valverde and Movistar teammate Andrey Amador tried to create a selection on the following descent with Chaves and the other favourites reacting swiftly to the Spaniards attack and Chaves still with teammates.

Txurruka led the bunch onto the third first category climb of the day, the Colle della Lombarda with 30kilometres to go and the breakaway at ten minutes.

With 23kilometres to go Chaves had only Plaza in support as Tinkoff picked up the pace and riders began to drop out of the group.

Astana took over from Tinkoff and again the pace went up with the pink jersey group being reduced to twenty-two riders as Plaza lost contact.

Michele Scarponi (Astana) was on the front for Nibali when the attack came as the two Italians split the group again but Chaves closed brilliantly and fixed himself to the wheel of Nibali.

With twelve kilometres left to race Astana had called Kangert back from the break when Nibali unleashed two brutal attacks. Chaves fought bravely with Valverde and limited the damage to ten seconds as Nibali bridged across to Kangert.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) made contact with Chaves and Valverde and took up the tempo for the trio as Nibali pulled away.

Chaves lost contact with Uran and Valverde close to the summit of the Lombarda and battled on into the descent as the Scarponi group caught his wheel.

Rein Taaramae (Katusha) won the stage from the breakaway as the fight for the race continued behind onto the short final climb to the finish. Chaves continued to fight on the tough gradient all the way to the line coming in over a minute down on Nibali and into second place overall.

Tomorrow’s 21st and final stage covers 163kilometres from Cuneo to Turin over a predominantly flat parcours that culminates in eight laps of the 7.5kilometre finishing circuit. The circuit includes the stages only climb which is short at just under one kilometre in length.

Giro d’Italia stage 20 results:

1. Rein Taaramae (Katusha) 04:22:43
2. Darwin Atapuma (BMC) +0:52
3. Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) +1:17
4. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) +08:20  

General classification after stage 20:

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 82:44:31
2. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:00:52 
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 00:01:17