Esteban Chaves described his win on stage four of the Volta a Catalunya as a “joy”, saying it “gives me a lot of confidence”.
The Colombian attacked with seven kilometres remaining of the final 18.6km finishing climb at Port Ainé and held on for a memorable solo victory, crossing the line seven seconds ahead of a bunch of nine riders.
Just a day after finishing second on another summit finish, the victory is the 31-year-old’s first triumph since an emotional win at the 2019 Giro d’Italia and confirms that he is back among the world’s leading climbers after a number of seasons disrupted by injury and illness.
“I am very happy, very pleased,” he said, producing his trademark smile.
“I had a lot to do to win and I couldn’t lose anything but we controlled it really well.
“I had really good sensations but above all it’s the first victory for the team as BikeExchange.”
Chaves, whose European base is in Andorra, knew the climb well having trained on the slopes of the ski resort a number of times.
But the Volta is his first race of the season, the latest he has ever started a campaign.
His form, therefore, was an unknown at the start of the week. “I have never started the year with a spring like this before,” he added.
“There have been difficult years but always we have continued working and fighting and it is very gratifying.
“We have worked really hard in the last few years, there have been difficult years, but the team, my girlfriend and everyone has really helped.
“It is a joy to win. It gives me a lot of confidence.”
Chaves told Cycling Weekly earlier in the winter that he still believes he can win the Tour de France. Overhauling a 1-04 deficit to Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) at this race’s GC, however, looks a tall order.
“For sure [he will aim to keep the mountains and points jersey]. They are a lot of options in play.
“(But) it is hard [to fight for GC] but if I have the opportunity then we’ll see.”