Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) is cementing his second place, but tips his hat to an “unbelievable” Chris Froome after trying to overthrow him for the Cumbre del Sol summit finish win on stage six of the Vuelta a España.
Sky’s leader shot free solo on stage nine, but looked in danger in the final 200 metres when 27-year-old Chaves – in the same Vuelta team with Adam and Simon Yates – clawed his way back.
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“I thought the same [that it was my chance] and I waited for the finish and then close to the finish, he looked back and started again,” Chaves said.
“He’s an unbelievable rider. He’s won the Tour de France four times. For me it’s a good result because the last time [in 2015], I arrived some 15 or 30 seconds back.
“Today is a different story. I am more mature, more experienced and calmer, and this is more important.”
Chaves failed to win the stage or gain time on Froome, who has led the race from stage three through stage nine, but he has cemented his second place spot.
With the bonus seconds and small four-second gap, Chaves fell to 36 seconds back. However, he has more time on his rivals.
Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) sits third at 1-05, grand tour champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) fourth at 1-17 and American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) fifth at 1-27.
“We are confirming our second place in the GC. For me it’s a good result I put some time on others in the GC,” Chaves added. “The team works very well like always and I want to say thank you. And after nine days, now it’s time to rest.”
Chaves placed second overall in the Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a España last year. In 2017, he was due to lead the Tour de France team but a knee problem set back his preparation and forced a change in plans.
He raced the Tour to return to form and the Vuelta for the classification.
“Things are going really well for us,” sports director Neil Stephens said back at the Orica team bus.
“There are many hard rivals out there and Froome is excelling day after day. Esteban rode a very good stage today. A couple years ago he got too excited and lost the lead and I think you learn from that.
“Today he rode really well but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get the stage. We came up against a really strong Chris Froome.”
The Vuelta takes off again on Tuesday and will begin climbing longer and higher passes. Chaves will look to gain as much as possible with the 40.2-kilometre time trial in the third week that could cost him.
“I don’t know [if the longer climbs will suit him] but we’re going to have to try to gain time if we can before the time trial,” Stephens continued.
“We have to keep that time trial in mind. But at the moment we have no room to attack, we just follow.”