Esteban Chaves will start his 2017 season with a trio of races in Australia, which he says will ‘repay’ his Australian fans’ support during his successful 2016 campaign.
The Colombian is scheduled to ride in the Tour Down Under (14-22 January 14-22), Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (January 29) and Jayco Herald Sun Tour (February 1-5) in his Orica-BikeExchange team’s home nation.
The Great Ocean Road Race has been given extra gravitas in 2017 by joining the Tour Down Under in the UCI’s top-flight WorldTour race series, which will bolster its start list.
“These [Australian] races are super important for Orica-BikeExchange,” 26-year-old Chaves said. “We can only race in Australia for these three races each year so I am happy to be with them for this.”
“The boys are super motivated to race near their homes and I am a little bit Australian now so I am happy for this too.
“This year we set some big goals and we meet and pass them many times, especially with the Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and Il Lombardia. Sometimes I don’t believe all of this happened.
“Next year, we will start a little different in Australia but we will again set some big goals for hope this success again.”
Chaves said that he is hoping for a better experience than the last time he visited Australia in 2013, when he was riding with the Colombia team.
“I don’t have the best memories of last time I was in Australia,” revealed Chaves. “I don’t speak English so can’t speak with anyone and also I am suffering a lot in the training. For sure this time will be a lot different.
“When I go to one new place I like to see how the local people live, what the local people eat, what the local people do, the culture and mentality. I am super-excited to look at all these different things, understand Australians even more and learn why Australians are super-nice persons with everyone.”
In 2016, Chaves’s Australian team-mate Simon Gerrans won the Tour Down Under for a fourth time. Brit Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and Chris Froome (Team Sky) took his first victory of the season at the Herald Sun Tour, before going on to win the Tour de France for a third time.