Chaves produces biggest win of career to claim Vuelta a Espana lead

Sun 23 Aug 2015

Colombian Esteban Chaves has won the second stage of the Vuelta a Espana, the biggest win of his young career, to move into the race lead today.

The 25-year-old traded blows with fellow attackers on the final 2.5km climb to the first summit finish of the 2015 Tour.

Eventually he proved too strong for Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) in the final metres to claim the victory and a five-second overall lead for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” an ecstatic Chaves said. “I want to say thanks to all of my teammates, all the staff, this is unbelievable.”

“It’s really important. It’s the most important victory of my life. The first road stage of the Vuelta and to take the red jersey… it’s unbelievable.

“The team have all the confidence in me and they did the best today. Thank you mates!”

When asked if he can keep the race lead, the 2014 Tour de Suisse and Tour of California stage winner produced his trademark big smile and some fighting words.

“I hope!” he laughed.

“I want to leave skin on the road to keep the red jersey. This is the reason I am a rider, I will try to stay in front for as long as possible.

“We worked really hard after the Giro d’Italia and after Suisse and this is the compensation.”

Adding to the reward, Chaves also leads the green sprint classification, mountain polka dot jersey and white combination competition.

Sharing Chaves’ joy was a thrilled Neil Stephens.

“It was a really good job from the boys,” the sport director said. “The plan was for them to leave Esteban in an ideal position with four kilometres to go and they did a really good job with that.”

“The real priority was to stay around the mark with the general classification guys but I had a chat with him this morning and said at any time throughout the Vuelta there is going to be situations that could also be a possibility for a stage win and to take the initiative.

“That’s something only he can do and he rode really smart in the final there.”

Stephens credited the climber’s hard work and dedication; particularly having returned from a near career ending injury just two years ago.

“At 500m to go I said to Esteban ‘I know how hard you have worked for this’ and to take advantage of the situation," Stephens said.

“He knows how much he has worked for it, I think a lot of people know how much he has had to work for it and it is just great that he can take the benefit today.” 

How it unfolded:

The first road stage stayed together for the first 20km racing before a group of six formed the first breakaway of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.

Covering 41.2km in the first hour of racing the break’s advantage remained steady at a little over three minutes.

Team Sky and Movistar could be seen at the head of the peloton keeping safe and maintaining an acceptable distance to the leaders.

With 60km to go Team Katusha joined the party and the gap began to tumble before five of the six were caught with aorund 25km to go. José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) held on for little longer before he was also swallowed up.

A late attack, initiated by Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar), looked dangerous and sensing the danger, Chaves bridged across with three kilometres remaining.

Quintana subsequently lost contact as Chaves exchanged blows with Dumoulin and Nicholas Roache (Team Sky). Roache was the first to crack before a last ditched effort to the line saw Chaves get the better of Dumoulin.

Tomorrow’s stage three is the first of few opportunities identified by organisers as a sprint stage, however it’s far from guaranteed.

Standing strongly in the way of a bunch kick is a tough 16km mid-race category one with an average of 5.2% and ramps of up to 15%.