Chaves recovers from crash to retain red jersey at Vuelta a Espana

Sat 29 Aug 2015

Two-time stage winner Esteban Chaves has recovered from a crash during stage eight of the Vuelta a Espana to retain the red leader’s jersey for another day.

Chaves was involved in a large crash with 50km to go that saw a number of big names forced to withdraw from the race. Fortunately, the Colombian managed to escape with only minor grazes.

Many of his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates were also taken down in the same incident but recovered to wait for their leader. Damien Howson and Jens Keukeleire worked hard to pull Chaves back to the front group whilst Daryl Impey and Cameron Meyer took positioning duties over the first climb and onto the second.

“It was very stressful, everyone wanted to be at the front,” Chaves said. “Then one Lotto Soudal rider fell in front of me after a roundabout. I think this rider is really bad and I want to say to him that I hope you recover really well.”

“After this the guys stayed with me and helped me get back to the first group. I started the climbs in the first group, the downhill was really dangerous, really small and in the final we keep the red jersey.

“I want to say again thank you to the boys and also to Neil (sport director), because Neil in the moment after the crash kept talking to me and when the big riders attacked he kept me calm.”

Sport director Neil Stephens credited the team’s ability to use their experience, not panic and make correct decisions on the road.

“The crash made a tricky finish even harder,” Stephens said. “Firstly, we lost riders out of our designated helpers and we also had to spend a lot of our energy getting him back.”

“Rightly so, the bunch was riding for the stage win. They didn’t back off the pace when he crashed but they weren’t trying to attack Esteban and that is no problem at all.

“The team reassessed the situation and a number of decisions were made on the road that were all right ones – firstly Mat Hayman gave Esteban his wheel, the decision to ride full gas and leave poor Simon Gerrans still on the side of the road was the right call, then Cameron Meyer radioed back from the front bunch to ask if he should wait which I said no and finally Daryl (Impey) made the call on the last climb to give it everything to put Esteban in a good position.

“A lot of the calls come from the car but I’ll say it again, a lot of important calls come from the bike and every call and question made from the bike today was a good call so the boys - physically and tactically - rode very well.”

How it happened:

With the first 140km predominantly downhill, the start of stage eight was a fast one.

It took over 40km for the day’s break to be allowed to ride off and again it was well managed to ensure no general classification threats were amongst it.

ORICA-GreenEDGE weren’t required to work too hard on the front as Tinkoff-Saxo and later Giant-Alpecin showed interest in the stage victory and kept the gap under five minutes.

As they approached Murcia with 50km to go, ahead of the two ascents of Alto de la Cresta del Gallo, the gap was down to one and a half minutes.

Tension was high as positioning became crucial and as a result a big crash took down much of the peloton and saw four riders withdraw, including general classification riders Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing).

ORICA-GreenEDGE was also involved, including the red jersey of Chaves, but the full team managed to finish the stage.

After a considerable chase effort to get Chaves back into the front group, the team used there few remaining riders to position Chaves over the first climb and into the second.

Chaves was then on his own at the front, but in good position. Several attacks went on the latter part of the climb and also on the dangerous descent but in the end it regrouped on the flat section leading into the finish line.

Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing) won the reduced bunch sprint, with Chaves safely in the front bunch.