Mechanical costs Chaves while Nieve climbs to 13th on brutal stage nine of La Vuelta

Sun 1 Sep 2019

An untimely mechanical dashed Esteban Chaves’ overall hopes despite an heroic chase on a short, but brutal stage nine of La Vuelta a Espana in Andorra.

The Colombian was forced into a frantic chase on the second ascent of the day and was later distanced after making it back to the group of favourites ahead of the third climb thanks to his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates.

The time loss sees Chaves drop to 14th in the general classification, while Basque rider Mikel Nieve claimed 13th on the stage after spending the day in the breakaway and moves into 11th overall.

Short and Brutal

As expected, there were attacks from the gun as the peloton race straight into the slopes of the first climb of the day, the category-one Coll d’Ordino. Several riders made efforts to breakaway before a large pack of 40-riders edged clear of the bunch, with Nieve making it into the move for Mitchelton-SCOTT.

The group was being kept on a tight leash up the ascent, before eventually being allowed some leeway over the top of the climb and down the descent. The gap stood at around four minutes ahead of the second climb of the day and the first ‘HC’ categorised climb of the race.

But disaster struck Chaves midway up the Coll de la Gallina as a mechanical forced a bike swap with teammate Damien Howson. The Colombian was quickly back underway, but on a bike far too big, resulting in another bike change as he took Tsgabu Gramy’s machine before beginning a long chase.

Frantic Chase

Howson, Grmay and Nick Schultz quickly set about trying to pace Chaves across the 50-second gap back to the group of general classification contenders, with the back of the pack honing into sight as they crested the climb. The technical descent didn’t make the chase any easier, but Chaves and Grmay finally made contact on the run into the next climb.

Meanwhile, out front a lone leader headed the breakaway group containing Nieve as they hit the foot of the climb with ambitions of holding off the chasing peloton. However, that soon changed as an attack from former race leader Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team) split the group of favourites, distancing Chaves, who was beginning to pay for his gutsy chase.

López was eventually reeled back in by the other GC contenders as they swept past Nieve and the remains of the breakaway ahead of the short gravel sector. The stage then turned into a battle for the overall with Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) going on to take the stage solo, while Nieve crossed the line in 13th place, 2’02” on the day’s winner.

Esteban Chaves:
“I saw the time on the top of the clock and it was under three hours, so we went really, really fast and for me it was a really hard day, I needed to change the bike twice on the Gallina climb, which is brutal.”

“After that I just tried to do my own pace until the line. They started to attack on the Comella and I can’t follow. I spent so much energy before so I tried to do the smartest thing I can and hopefully I’m still in the top-10.”

“It is what it is, it’s alive. We need to keep trying, keep going like always and try to enjoy this.”

Julian Dean (Sports Director):
"I couldn’t actually be more proud of the team after what happened today, they all did exactly the right thing at the right time, committed to a plan, they knew Esteban was our leader and they all did everything they could."

"But by the time Esteban got back to the group of favourites, the energy he’d spent was just too much. Mikel did a good ride and it’s always good to have the security of him up the road in the group and it was great ride by him." 

"They’re both still in there, in the race at the moment and what happened to us today can happen to anyone in any other day of this race, so it’s certainly not over yet."

La Vuelta – Stage 9 Results:
1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) 2:58:09
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) +0:23
3. Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) +0:48
13. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +2:02

La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 9:
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) 35:18:18
2. Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) +0:06
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) +0:17
11. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +5:19

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.