Esteban Chaves Wins Amgen Tour of California Stage Six Summit FinishFri 16 May 2014
Esteban Chaves soloed to victory atop Mountain High on stage six of the Amgen Tour of California. The Colombian was part of the early breakaway and one of three from the escape to hold off the peloton on the summit finish. It is the first win for Chaves at ORICA-GreenEDGE, and the first win for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Tour of California.
“This is a very, very, very important win,” said Chaves. “With my crash and my big injuries last year, I didn’t know if it was going to be possible to be a professional cyclist. To win stage six today at the Tour of California – it’s something amazing.”
“It’s a great win for the team,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “In the three years that we’ve been coming here, we hadn’t won a stage yet. We changed that this year. It’s all going very well for us.”
The Australian outfit had planned to ride for Adam Yates on stage six. The young Briton recently won the Tour of Turkey and had shown promise on the Mount Diablo stage where he mistimed an attack in the closing kilometres and missed out on the stage win. Yates wanted redemption and saw Mountain High as his chance.
“The plan today was to ride for Adam,” explained Wilson. “We thought if we gave Adam the best chance at the finish, he could win the stage. We had Esteban as a wildcard.”
“We told Esteban that if he saw a move going with strong guys from some of the bigger teams than he should try to get into the break,” Wilson added. “There would be a good chance a move like that could stay away, and it would make Adam’s drive to the finish easier if he had a teammate up the road.”
In keeping with the directives he was given, when Chaves saw Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), Jack Bobridge (Belkin), David de la Cruz (NeApp-Endura), Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) and Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare) jump out of the bunch, he followed wheels to cover the move. The six escapees would gain a maximum advantage of 4’20 by the mid-point of the stage.
“There was great teamwork in the break,” said Chaves. “All six riders were very strong. We worked together to stay away from the peloton.”
The breakaway hit the lower slopes of Mountain High with 3’30 over the peloton. Forty uphill kilometres left to race, the move began to look like it might go the distance. Megias and Jones were the first to fall off the pace largely set by their breakmates. Back in the bunch, the peloton began to lose riders as well.
“With about 40 kilometres left, I gave the move a 30 percent chance,” admitted Wilson. “A lot depended on how hard the guys would ride in the bunch. When they hit the ten kilometre mark, I realised there was a really good chance the move would stay away. At the five kilometre mark, I thought: ‘Yep, that’s it. They’re not getting caught.’ From there, it was just a matter of Esteban making the most of the opportunity and taking the win.”
Chaves won in style. He launched a bold attack 5.7 kilometres from the finish. His acceleration immediately distanced Bobridge, Danielson and de la Cruz, and he maintained his advantage all the way to the finish.
“Last night I did some homework with Mat Hayman,” explained Chaves. “I studied the climb on the Internet. I knew that the last five kilometres were very steep. I picked out this place and said if the bunch isn’t close, this is where I will attack. I did it exactly as I planned.”
Back in the bunch, Team Sky set a blistering pace that thinned out the peloton and discouraged attacks. Garmin-Sharp, hoping to move Rohan Dennis up on the general classification, sent riders up the road. Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky) steadily neutralised each attempt, tirelessly riding tempo on the front of the field.
An attack from Peter Stetina (BMC) split the field, prompting the formation of an elite group of chasers. Adam Yates had made the selection that included race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Dennis, Stetina, George Bennett (Cannondale) and Lawson Craddock (Giant Shimano). Launching with the line in sight, Yates led the yellow jersey group home. The effort was good for fourth place on the stage.
“Adam did a fantastic ride,” said Wilson. “He did exactly what he had do. He marked the guys he had to mark, and he won the sprint in the final. He was just as happy as Esteban with the way today worked out for us.”
“Our future is very exciting,” Wilson added. “Adam and Esteban are part of a new wave of climbers we signed this year, and they’ve both already come out and shown their talent. I think Esteban’s win today is an especially great story. He’s had a long recovery following a really nasty crash. He’s only been racing again for a few months, and he’s already won a race. He’s a super talent. We’re going to see a lot more out of him.”