Chaves retains red for another day at Vuelta a Espana

Mon 24 Aug 2015

Colombian Esteban Chaves, winner of yesterday’s stage, has finished safely in the bunch on stage three of the Vuelta a Espana to retain the red leader’s jersey.

Further capitalising on their hard work at the front of the peloton, the 25-year-old’s ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates fought to set up Australian Mitch Docker for seventh place in the bunch sprint finish.

“The team worked fantastic today, all of the guys for me,” Chaves said.

“It’s really good to have the experienced guys like Mat Hayman, Simon Gerrans, Daryl Impey and Cameron Meyer to help keep the red jersey.”

Asked if wearing a Grand Tour leader’s jersey created any nerves, the 2014 Tour de Suisse and Tour of California stage winner conceded.

“Of course,” he laughed. “I’m really scared, not nervous, scared.”

“It’s a really big responsibility, but this is part of the game, this is beautiful.”

Sport director Neil Stephens said the team’s priority was the red jersey, knowing that the tough mid-stage category one climb could potentially make it difficult for neo-pro sprinter Caleb Ewan in his first Grand Tour.

“This morning we had to make a bit of a decision,” Stephens explained. “We had a fantastic win yesterday, but also the time differences were really important.”

“We have the leader’s jersey of one of the biggest races in the world, that’s nothing to blow off and we want to keep that for a few days longer.

“Caleb didn’t actually miss the top of the climb by much, in fact he got over the climb but just lost touch on a pinch later on.”

Stephens also praised Docker, who stepped up from his lead out duties to contest the sprint.

“It was nice to see Mitch Docker, who is generally our lead out guy and one of the workers, have a bit of a sprint in the finish,” he said.

“Seventh place in a Grand Tour sprint, that’s nothing to take lightly.”

How it unfolded:

After an active start, eight riders established the day’s main breakaway.

ORICA-GreenEDGE immediately took their position at the front of the peloton to control the advantage and defend the red jersey on the back of Chaves.

The gap hovered between two and four minutes over the first climb and toward the day’s major climb, a category one.

Over the top of the tough 15km climb, and with just under 70km to go, the gap had reduced to two minutes.

Tinkoff-Saxo took over duties at the head of the peloton as ORICA-GreenEDGE sprinter Caleb Ewan lost contact. Giant-Alpecin also pitched in and with 15km to go the race came back together for the expected sprint.

In reward for their contribution to the chase efforts, Peter Sagan claimed the victory for TInkoff-Saxo.

Tomorrow’s stage four is a long 203km journey from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera.

On paper it looks a lot easier than today’s stage with no classified climbs but two ramps and narrow technical streets in the final four kilometres should spice it up for the final.