The only rider in the race with a Grand Tour podium to his name, Chaves was the favourite for the stage, but his form remained uncertain after a disappointing 2017 season disrupted by a knee injury.
However Chaves has clearly enjoyed a good off-season, as he displayed scintillating early-season form by attacking at the base of the finishing climb to Lake Mountain, crossing the line 42 seconds ahead of the impressive Alexander Evans (Modius-BridgeLane) with the main group of chasers including defending champion Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) at 1-09.
How it happened
With the race starting from the Mitchelton Winery a Mitchelton-Scott victory always seemed in the stars but the WorldTour team didn’t have any riders represented in the 10-rider breakaway which got away soon after the start.
In the move were Matt Ross (KordaMentha-Australia), Etienne Van Empel (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Edmund Bradbury (JLT Condor), Brad Evans (Mobius BridgeLane), Steele von Hoff (Bennelong SwissWellness), Nicholas Reddish (Oliver’s Real Food Racing), Ashley Mackay (Australian Cycling Academy), Jonathan Noble (Brisbane Continental), Kane Richards and Alexander Ray (McDonalds-Down Under).
The long 218km stage saw the break allowed a maximum lead of more than seven minutes. However with Mitchelton-Scott and Trek-Segafredo controlling the front of the bunch, that was quickly brought down as the race neared its conclusion, with the front group eventually caught on the approach to the finishing climb.
With four riders within a minute of the top of the general classification, Mitchelton-Scott had plenty of cards to play, but it was their very first move that succeeded as Colombian climber Chaves attacked near the base of the 20km final climb.
Chaves quickly established a decent lead and settled into his rhythm as team-mates Damien Howson and Cameron Meyer sat in on the chase group covering any counter-attacks.
Australian Continental team Mobius-Bridgelane set a high tempo to limit Chaves’s gap, before launching 20-year-old Alexander Evans off in pursuit. At one point Evans had Chaves within his grasp but was unable to bridge across, eventually crossing the line 42 seconds behind as the Mitchelton-Scott rider celebrated the stage win.
The result moved Chaves into the overall lead by 32 seconds, with Mitchelton-Scott also holding second and third places in the general classification with Cameron Meyer and Damien Howson.
The Herald Sun Tour concludes on Sunday with a rolling 152km stage around Kinglake. This stage saw attacking riding in 2017 with Ian Stannard taking the win, but didn’t create big enough time gaps to shake up the general classification.
Herald Sun Tour, stage three: Mitchelton Winery to Lake Mountain, 218km
1. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, in 5-53-55
2. Alexander Evans (Aus) Mobius BridgeLane, at 42 secs
3. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-09
4. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
5. Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Nathan Earle (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy
7. Freddy Ovett (Aus) ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast
8. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy
9. James Whelan (Aus) KordaMentha Real Estate-Australia
10. Sam Crome (Aus) Bennelong SwissWellness, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, in 14-56-35
2. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 32 secs
3. Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 39 secs
4. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo, at 45 secs
5. Dylan Sunderland (Aus) Bennelong SwissWellness, at 1-06
6. Chris Harper (Aus) Bennelong SwissWellness, at 1-09
7. Alexander Evans (Aus) Mobius BridgeLane, at 1-54
8. Sam Crome (Aus) Bennelong SwissWellness, at 1-58
9. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy, at 2-02
10. Freddy Ovett (Aus) ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast, at 2-04