Esteban Chaves Solos to First WorldTour Win on Tour de Suisse Queen StageSat 21 Jun 2014
Esteban Chaves scored his second win of the season in style. The Colombian soloed to victory in Verbier with a perfectly-timed attack on the hors categorie Alpine climb that featured in the closing kilometres of Tour de Suisse stage eight. Reminiscent of his win atop Mountain High at the Amgen Tour of California in May, the result on the queen stage of the Swiss tour demonstrates what ORICA-GreenEDGE has believed from day one. Chaves is amongst the best climbers in the bunch.
“This is my most important victory,” said Chaves. “It’s my first WorldTour win. It comes at a really important race. Everyone here has the legs for the Tour de France. I don’t have the words for what this means to me. Thanks to all my teammates, the team and the people that support me. I am so happy.”
“We are proud to put our faith in a young, talented rider like Esteban,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “He dealt with some very serious health issues last year, but we knew he had the character and the talent to come back from his injuries. We’ve invested in his development, and it’s bloody fantastic to see his progression. A win is always a good thing, but with everything Esteban has gone through, it makes this one extra special.”
The mountainous weekend of racing was also the longest day in the saddle for the Tour de Suisse peloton. Although the opening kilometres were lumpy, it was widely believed that the main action would begin at the foot of the category three Vollèges that topped out 15 kilometres from the finish.
The early action followed the usual pattern with a group of eight riders slipping clear of the bunch in the opening hour of the race. By the mid-point of the stage, the frontrunners had opened up a gap of roughly seven minutes. Giant-Shimano, Europcar, Lampre-Merdia, FDJ.fr and Tinkoff-Saxo all played an active role in the chase.
“We had a plan today and that was what we executed,” said Stephens. “The team looked after Esteban early. The race was long, fast and hard. We had a tailwind for most of the stage, so the bunch was really strung out throughout the day. When we hit the third category climb, Mat Hayman put it all on the line to get Esteban in a really good place.”
“The guys all helped me arrive in the last kilometres before the climb in a good position,” said Chaves. “I want to thank them all – Mathew Hayman, Simon Clarke, Cameron Meyer, Michael Albasini, Nino Schurter and Sam Bewley. They all did their work for me today, and I am so thankful. Because of their work, I started the last climb in the perfect position.”
The Verbier began following a short ascent of the Vollèges. The summit of the 13.4 kilometre hors categorie mountain pass sat 1.6 kilometres from the finish line. The attacks began as the road pitched toward the sky. Danilo Wyss (BMC) attacked the remnants of the early breakaway as Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) and Louis Meintjes (MTN Qhubeka) powered away from the reduced bunch. Six kilometres from the finish, the race was back together with Belkin at the front of the 30-40 rider front group.
“I know this climb well, and I explained it to Chaves,” said Stephens. “I said: ‘Look – you still have a chance for a good result on the general classification. Let’s keep that alive. Stick with the big guns. You have no reason to attack, and there are a lot of guys that want to gain time on Tony Martin (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step). You should just sit with the main bunch. Only if you’re feeling really good and the rest of the guys seem under pressure, only then is when you should go.’ ”
“I didn’t have TV in the car, so I was on the phone with Matt White,” Stephens added. “He told me Esteban was looking really, really strong. That’s when I got in his ear and reminded him that if he was feeling really good, he could think about going. It was all up to him after that.”
Just inside the final three kilometres, one kilometre from the summit of the Verbier, Chaves made his move. Davide Formolo (Cannondale) was the only rider who could respond. Chaves kept the pace high, eventually riding Formolo off his wheel. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) attacked over the top of the climb, passing Formolo on the downhill to the finish.
“Before I did my attack, the other guys had already gone,” explained Chaves. “When they came back, I saw my opportunity. I knew I had only one shot. I made a really strong attack in the last kilometre before the top.”
“I looked back four or five times,” Chaves added. “The other guys were always really close to me. I wasn’t sure that I was going to win until ten metres from the finish.”
Chaves crossed the finish line three seconds ahead of Kreuziger in second and Mollema in third. Eros Capecchi (Movistar) led home the yellow jersey group that had shrunk to only seven riders by stage end. Tony Martin holds tight to his spot atop the overall classification, a place he’s occupied since winning the opening stage time trial last weekend. Chaves jumped up to 19th overall, 3’40 behind the race leader.
“Everything we talked about with Esteban back in December has happened,” said Stephens. “We told him he would go to Mallorca to sit in the bunch. That was all he had to do. He did that. Next, he had to go to Catalunya and finish the race – just finish. He had to do the same in Basque Country. He did all that. At California, we wanted him to do something more than finish. He won a stage, and that was really fantastic. That was the first real sign for me that we were on the right track.”
“Before we got to July and his first big break, I wanted him to do something here in Switzerland,” Stephens continued. “He could target a decent overall result or fight for a stage. Well, he’s done that now, too. Everything we’ve planned in December has come off as we discussed it. His next big objective is the Tour of Spain.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?” said Chaves, when asked about Stephens’ assessment. “Mallorca, Catalunya, Basque Country, California, Switzerland – it just keeps getting better and better and better. Most people know that my dream is to one day win the Tour de France. This is what I work for every day and at every race.”