Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), who tried with team-mate Simon Yates to break the Quintana/Froome stronghold at the Vuelta a España, says he felt nothing but pain when they flew by in stage 11 on Wednesday.
Chaves, fourth overall, fired up the road with 1.7 kilometres remaining on the Peña Cabarga summit finish in northern Spain. Nairo Quintana responded at 700 metres, Sky’s Chris Froome marked him and together, they blew by Chaves. Froome won the stage and put 29 seconds on Chaves.
“There weren’t big differences, 15 seconds, which is as far as that bus over there,” said Chaves with a smile pointing at the next team bus. “I didn’t think much, all you feel is pain [when they race past]. You can think five or ten minutes after the line. At that moment, it’s full pain. You feel pain and no more.”
Quintana leads in the red jersey by 54 seconds over Froome. His Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde is in third at 1-05 minutes and Chaves sits fourth at 2-34.
Colombian Chaves placed second overall in the Giro d’Italia this May and last year, won two stages and placed fifth overall in the Vuelta. He is hoping for better this time around.
“Froome and Quintana are one step up from the others, but not too much. I hope in the third week they will come down, normally, you never know,” Chaves continued. “Froome is a real champion, if you win the Tour three times you’re a real champion.”
Simon Yates already won a stage and began Thursday’s medium-mountain stage to Bilbao in seventh at 3-25 minutes. Over the next week, he will be critical to Chaves’s chances.
“I think we’re pretty confident for those stages [to Aubisque and Aramón Formigal], but again we’ll have to see how it plays out, but they do definitely suit him more,” Yates explained.
“[Froome and Quintana] are pretty big champions. Those guys, it’s normal they can respond. After the rest day, you never know how you’ll feel so those guys seem to know what they’re doing, so I’m not surprised.”