Colombian Esteban Chaves lost the pink jersey and his chance to win the Giro d’Italia on stage 20 in the sun-soaked Alps above Turin, Italy.
In the final mountain stage, he could not follow Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and slipped to second overall, but says, “It’s only a bike race.”
Orica-GreenEdge‘s captain, winner of the Corvara stage last week, took the pink jersey lead on stage 19 by 44 seconds.
On stage 20 he struggled to follow Nibali’s attacks and lost 1-36 by Sant’Anna di Vinadio. His parents, who arrived from Colombia yesterday, congratulated Nibali and comforted Chaves.
“This is the first time for my parents here in Europe, the first time for me with the pink jersey,” 26-year-old Chaves said. “That’s the biggest thing for me in life. We only lost a bike race.”
Chaves slipped behind on the Colle della Lombarda climb and never recovered. Nibali had first launched with teammate Michele Scarponi and then joined Tanel Kangert, who dropped back from an early escape.
“We are happy nonetheless, we gave the most we could. Today, Nibali and Scarponi showed they are the best. I didn’t have the legs. Life is like that, that’s it,” Chaves said showing no sign of disappointment in the mix of journalists.
“Yeah [I had to take antibiotics], but that’s not an excuse. I’m not a guy who says it was for this or that reason, no, simply that I didn’t have the legs. That’s it.”
The bike that almost took Chaves to overall glory
Chaves made his mark in the grand tours last year when he won two stages and placed fifth overall in the Vuelta a España. The breakthrough marked a comeback after a crash in February 2013 that ripped his axillary nerve apart completely and the suprascapular nerve partially.
“I learned in this Giro that you can reach your dreams,” Chaves added. “If you keep going hard, don’t give up, you can do it.”
He could have become only the second only Colombian to win the Giro d’Italia after Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won in 2014. Quintana this year is aiming for the Tour de France and Chaves is returning home to prepare for a likely run at the Vuelta.