More spectacular teamwork from OBE on stage 20 of La Vuelta sees Chaves back in 3rd overall

Sat 10 Sep 2016

ORICA-BikeExchange produced another fine display of teamwork and tactical knowhow on stage 20 of La Vuelta a Espana today as Esteban Chaves capped off an incredible three weeks of racing by moving back into third on the general classification.

Damien Howson made it into the day’s breakaway that formed after a fast and hectic start, immediately giving the Australian outfit the option of advanced support later in the stage.

The support plan was utilised and executed to perfection as ORICA-BikeExchange unleashed a series of strong accelerations at the front of the peloton that heavily reduced the bunch before Chaves attacked on the penultimate climb.

With Howson positioned up the road Chaves continued to accelerate until making contact, from that point forward Howson buried himself and catapulted Chaves up the climb before pulling off with 15kilometres left to race.

Despite the intensity of the occasion Chaves maintained tempo up the climb and finished well ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) to take third place overall.

“We said in the beginning that the goal for the team was the general classification and we kept fighting for it right until the end,” said Chaves. “Today was a beautiful stage and all of my life I dreamt of riding an epic stage like today and to do it with this team is unbelievable.”

“Thankyou very much to all of the guys, especially Damien Howson for what they gave today. I’m really happy and proud to be part of this team and the future looks really bright for ORICA-BikeExchange.”

The stage was won by Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2R-La-Mondiale) from the breakaway with Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crossing the line close together as Quintana sealed the overall victory.

Stage six winner Simon Yates ensured the team finish with two riders inside the final top ten with a measured ride to seal sixth overall.

Sport director Neil Stephens emphasised the importance of commitment and self-belief.

“It's about commitment and belief,” said Stephens. “After losing some time on yesterday's time trial we reflected on what we’d achieved in the race up to that point, three stage wins and fourth and sixth overall.”

“But we were so close to third and a podium spot that he boys themselves decided that we would give it one last hurrah today and hats off, that’s what we did.

“What’s most important is the spirit and belief and we had that in abundance today, everyone, the whole team. We needed someone up the road for the move to work and Damien (Howson) did a fantastic job up there in support of Esteban.

“I have to say that Simon (Yates) produced a really excellent, selfless ride on the last climb. We told him to keep digging and trying to break the rhythm of Contador and he did that brilliantly without one thought about his own chances. Fantastic, I’m very proud of the team.”

How it happened:

The penultimate yet decisive stage of the 2016 Vuleta a Espana began explosively with many attacks trying to go clear within the first ten kilometres before a group including Howson finally went up the road after an hour of racing.

The initial urgency from the peloton faded allowing the leaders to move out past nine minutes with 75kilometres left to race with the Howson group two minutes behind Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana).

Twenty kilometres later and the gap to the peloton had moved out to thirteen minutes with Sanchez and Molard still two minutes up on the chasers.

ORICA-BikeExchange, lined out behind Jack Haig at the front of the peloton, increased the speed significantly with 45kilometres to go and succeeded in reducing the bunch and gaining three minutes back on the leaders.

Jens Keuekeleire took up the reigns as Haig pulled off and duly upped the pace again as the bunch continued to split.

Chaves chose this moment to launch a devastating attack, bursting off the wheel of Keukeleire and immediately developing a gap of 50metres or more.

Chaves had a quick look back before accelerating again and disappearing up the road and over the top of second category Tudons climb and into the descent with Howson waiting a few kilometres ahead.

Movistar responded to the Chaves attack and led the heavily reduced red jersey group that included Froome, Yates and Contador into the chase.

Chaves was now on the wheel of Howson and heading towards the 21kilometre final climb, the Alto de Aitana, with the other favourites now over a minute further back and the leaders seven minutes ahead.

At the foot of the climb Chaves and Howson had two minutes on the red jersey group after some truly outstanding work by Howson, time trialling onto the lower slopes with Chaves on his wheel.

Howson pulled over with 15kilometres to go having given everything to launch Chaves up the climb.

Four minutes ahead of Chaves attacks were coming from the breakaway group with ten kilometres left to race and the red jersey group still two minutes behind the Colombian.

Chaves continued to keep his rhythm and tempo and began to pass dropped riders from the break as Froome started to attack from the red jersey group.

Only Quintana was able to follow and the two raced neck and neck over the final kilometres.

LaTour attacked Darwin Atapuma (BMC) in the last few metres to take the stage win with Chaves crossing the line in tenth on the day and enough time in front of Contador to secure third overall.

Froome graciously applauded race winner Quintana over the line with Yates finishing a minute later.

The Vuelta a Espana concludes tomorrow with a largely ceremonial 104kilometre stage in and around Madrid.

Vuelta a Espana stage 20 results:

1. Pierre Roger Latour (AG2R-La-Mondiale) 05:19:41
2. Darwin Atapuma (BMC) 00:00:02
3. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) 00:00:17
9. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:03:17

General classification after stage 20:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 80:42:36
2. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 00:01:23
3. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:04:08 
6. Simon Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:08:33