Esteban Chaves Climbs to Fourth Overall in Genting HighlandsSun 2 Mar 2014
Esteban Chaves had a hugely impressive showing on the queen stage of the Tour de Langkawi. The Colombian was the fourth rider to reach the summit finish at Genting Highlands. Part of the large early breakaway, Chaves survived the race of attrition that materialised on the punishing slopes of the final climb.
“This was Esteban’s first effort on a major climb in the best part of two years,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “It was an amazing effort by him to run fourth. He’s going to be a big star of the future.”
“After such a horrific crash last year, it was touch and go if he would ever ride again,” Wilson continued. “We’ve had our concerns about how he would pull up out of a major injury like that. Here it is on March 2, and he’s already getting results and climbing like this. That’s a huge sign of things to come.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE had hoped to set up Pieter Weening for the finish, and with that objective in mind, the team asked Chaves to ride the early breakaway. As directed, Chaves jumped up the road in what proved to be the decisive move.
“The plan today was to put Esteban in the front group to try to cover the early break and take a little bit of pressure off of Pete,” explained Wilson. “That’s exactly what happened. We hadn’t expected the group to get so big or include so many strong guys. In the end, it was a dangerous move but still a good situation for us.”
Thirty one riders swapped pulls through the valley. With only two teams missing the break, the peloton was happy to sit up and allow the breakaway to build a steady advantage. Sixteen leaders hit the foot of the final summit with more two minutes over the peloton. As the steep gradient began to take its toll on tired legs, the front group shattered.
With the finish line looming, Chaves was part of a group of an elite group that included eventual stage winner Mirsamed Poorseyedigolakhour (Tabriz), Merhawi Kudus (MTN – Qhubeka), Issac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare) and Petr Ignatenko (Katusha). Chaves patiently climbed within himself as Kudos and Bolivar launched attacks in the final push for the line. Poorseyedigolakhour accelerated 200 metres from the finish to take the win.
“It’s a super hard climb,” said Wilson. “It’s equal to the hardest climbs we have in Europe. Climbing begins about 30 kilometres from the finish. There are some big ramps and one place where it descends slightly. The last eight or nine kilometres are a pretty constant gradient of eight or nine percent.”
“Esteban’s group had 2’30 at the bottom of the climb,” added Wilson. “The Tabriz guy and Kudos from MTN managed to ride across to the front from the group behind. That’s a big effort to ride across a two minute gap like that.”
The overall results mirror the stage results as Poorseyedigolakhour moves into the leader’s jersey. The Iranian has an eight second advantage over Kudus and 11” on Bolivar. Chaves slots into fourth overall at 20”.
“We’ll focus on Aidis Kruopis and the sprints in the upcoming stages, but I don’t think it’s totally over for the general classification,” said Wilson. “I don’t think Tabriz has the ability to control the race every day. There are lots of short, small time gaps in the top five. While the remaining six stages are fairly flat, I think we could see a very attacking race and more surprises along the road.”
“We’ll definitely try to move Esteban up on the overall,” Wilson added. “We’ll be waiting to see some weakness in the Tabriz team – and when we do, we’ll make our move.”