Tag Archives: Esteban Chaves

A Colombian monument win

I didn’t get to see a lot of Il Lombardia as it is now known, or the Tour of Lombardy as I know it. To tell the truth I forgot it was even on. I was watching the Liverpool match on my television that morning and when it ended I was thinking what to do with the day when I remembered.

The race, I thought. How long is left? Have they crossed the crucial climbs? I couldn’t find it on TV and so I was scrambling for a feed on the iPad. The kids were nearby and any use of the iPad was liable to have them circling for a turn themselves. ‘Can I watch some princess songs?’ I was bracing for that, so I stayed subtle and got the race up, always ready to switch to the phone if required.

There was still 40km left. I was okay. The first main selection had been made but the best action was still ahead. Over the next half hour or so I dipped in and out. I refreshed the feed a couple of times. I made a cup of tea. I even fed the children some breakfast. By the time it was nitty-gritty time, I had settled back in and was ready for the climax.

That came when my pre-race prediction, Romain Bardet made his move. The young Frenchman has a big monument win in him and after his second place at the Tour, is having a superb season. Following him was Esteban Chaves, anotherpre-race favourite, with and two Grand Tour podiums in 2016. Rigoberto Uran, an excellent one-day rider on this kind of terrain, also went. Their move looked decisive. Everyone looked to one another. Diego Rosa had team-mate in Fabio Aru with him, but whether Aru sensed a foil or just didn’t have the legs I wasn’t quite sure. Either way Rosa was the one to try to bridge and Aru stood pat.

Rosa put in a huge effort and he did make it across. You had to wonder for his legs though; what else could he muster? Bardet looked strong, Chaves confident, Uran experienced. None though had won a monument before. The gap was going on so one of them soon would. Into the final stretch and the short climb near the finish and against my prediction it was Bardet who cracked. Rosa made a move to try and unsettle the others but it came to nothing. It seemed like a first Colombian monument win was upon us.

Into the three-up sprint it was well poised. Chaves sat quiet; Uran looked strong. Rosa opened the sprint. It made sense. The Italian had done a lot of work, he was the tired one. Throwing it all at the line early to hope one of the two missed his wheel was worth a try. They didn’t though. Uran was onto him, but he couldn’t come round him. Was Rosa about to win this? Two Italian winners of this Italian of races, back-to-back after Vincenzo Nibali in 2015?

Don’t forget Chaves. The little Colombian on the Australian team used Uran’s wheel to come back to the early kicking Rosa. He then had enough left to put himself in the wind and come past both a fading Uran and a diminishing Rosa. The Italian held on very well for second but there was one Colombian too many. Chaves had his monument glory.

That will end the season for many riders of the Chaves/Uran ilk. Anyone who prefers climbs to sprints likely won’t show up and Qatar for the Worlds. It’s a flat course and as much suited to the climbers as this race would be to a sprinter.

And so the five monument winners of 2016 and an eclectic group indeed:

Milan-San Remo: Arnaud Démare
Tour of Flanders: Peter Sagan
Paris-Roubaix: Matthew Hayman
Liège–Bastogne–Liège: Wout Poels
Il Lombardia: Esteban Chaves

Rider of the month: September

Peter Sagan. Coming back from the Olympics and his transition to mountain biking, the Slovak picked up right where he left off. He won the GP Cycliste de Quebec, was second in Montreal, won the European road title, and took two stage wins at the Eneco Tour along with a third place in GC.

Rider of the week

Given the major race of the week was Lombardy and that Esteban Chaves became the first Colombian to win a Monument, it seems only fair he wins.

Nibali cracks Chaves, grabs pink and wins the Giro

Vincenzo Nibali has won the Giro d’Italia. 4th place and almost five minutes behind overall on Saturday morning, he goes to bed on Sunday night with the pink jersey hanging in his hotel room closet and a lead over Esteban Chaves of almost a minute. Steven Kruijswijk, the man who looked nailed on to win this race as they rode towards the Alps, comes out of them two days later, off the podium. Shades of fellow countryman Tom Dumoulin’s late collapse at the Vuelta last year, also at the hands of an Italian on the Astana team.

Let’s get the niceties of the stage result out of the way first: Rein Taaramae took the victory. He got into the early break before shedding his fellow contenders and rode in alone, 52sec ahead of Colombian John Atapuma and 1min 17sec up on American Joe Dombrowski. A day for so nears yet so fars for the Colombians.

And it was the so near yet so far of Esteban Chaves that stood out the most. Stage 20 was the final mountain stage of this Giro and the Colle Della Lombarda its final major climb and for Chaves it proved a day too many; a ridge too far.

For Nibali the timing of his return to form couldn’t have been better played as he finished off what will certainly go down as one of the great comebacks in recent grand tour history. The pace was steady throughout the early parts of the stage, a likely reaction to how brutal the racing had been the day before, but Nibali clearly felt confident in what he could do late by comparison to his fading rivals. And so it was on that final long climb that he turned on the jets and rode away once again. Not to the stage win this time but into the pink jersey once and for all. And once more he had a man in the break up ahead who could wait for him and help set the pace for a while before he took over himself.

Kruijswijk, riding on with a broken rib was no longer a threat and soon dropped back and off the final podium placings, and Valverde fought valiantly to contain Nibali’s lead, pulling it back to just 13sec on the short final ramp up to the finish. But neither of them really mattered much to the Italian anymore so long as they were somewhere behind him. Second overall coming into the stage it was Chaves he had to break. Sadly yesterday proved that Chaves was nearing the limits of his form and so it proved that he couldn’t recover in time for today. He was unable to react when Nibali went and came over the finishing line 1min 23sec behind Nibali, and 7sec behind the banged up Kruijswijk.

It was a splendid ride by Nibali. A fine comeback story that had you enjoying its achievement even if it was by the pre-race favourite at the hands of the likable Esteban Chaves and Steven Kruijswijk. The Dutch will certainly felt hard done by in the final days of the most recent two Grand Tours, but make no mistake about it, a wave of talent is coming out of that nation that suggests they may not have to wait too long for someone to finally see it through.

The result of Nibali’s effort, of course, brought out skeptics and cynics. The former understandable, the later typical. And yet, while this was an epic comeback, it was by no means a Floyd Landis style turnaround from the 2006 Tour. It was far more believable than that when you dig deeper under the surface of the simple timing sheets. Enough to allay the fears of those skeptical, though nothing will change the hearts of the conspiratorial or cynical.

Thought that won’t matter much to Nibali and nor should it those who watched what was a couple of brilliant stages to end a very enjoyable Giro. Nibali will ride into Turin tomorrow to win his second Giro and 4th Grand Tour and go onto the record books as the winner whom beforehand we all expected to win. The only thing being the manor in which he won…having to reel it in after a handful of others came so close to winning it themselves while he struggled before soaring.

General classification after stage 20:

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

2. Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge)

3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

4. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

6. Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick Step)

in 82h 44′ 31″

@ 52″

@ 1′ 17″

@ 1′ 50″

@ 4′ 37″

@ 8′ 31″

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Alps…

We should all know by now never to concede the outcome of a Grand Tour when there are mountain passes still to come. Not when there’s a Shark in the peloton itching to find his form and take a bite out of this race. He is leaving it late, but Vincenzo Nibali has waited until the highest mountains of this years race to find his form and launch his attack. He went into the Alps with a place on the podium in question; he now has one day to find 44sec and pull off an incredible come back victory.

So what happened? How on earth did Steven Kruijswijk not see it through considering he had a 3min lead on second place Esteban Chaves and 4min 43sec on Nibali? Can the Colombian, Chaves, with the feel of the pink jersey upon his shoulders really pull it off? Today was into the climbs with high altitude, made for a man like Chaves; it is also the long climbs that surely Kruijswijk could defend on and see it out?

But cometh the hour, cometh the shark. It was a day of high drama, massive excitement and brilliant bike racing in every sense of the word. And there’s more tomrrow.

This morning I tuned in expecting action, and perhaps it’s easy to say now, but deep down I did feel the Italian had something within him still. Throughout this Giro, Nibali had been obviously lacking form or something. He claimed his numbers were good but couldn’t figure out what it was. He underwent tests to see if he had an underlying illness and said that if it proved to be so, he would withdraw from the Giro. Back on that uphill time-trial stage, made for a man like Nibali, he lost huge time to his rivals. As recently as stage 16 to Andolo, the last time they were in serious mountains, Nibali coughed up 1min 47sec to Kruijswijk and slipped back to 4th place overall.

The GC then was much as it was this morning coming into the Alps with Kruijswijk leading Chaves by 3min and Valverde by 3min 23sec with the Spaniard on the podium by 1min 23sec to Nibali. It was looking for all sensible betting that the Dutch would have their first Grand Tour winner since Joop Zoetemelk in 1980.

But then the racing started and the signing off on this Giro as being won and done, stopped. On the first major climb, the Pinorolo, Nibali was clearly feeling good. Those test results must have come back negative and perhaps the sight of that in itself gave him a boost. He attacked hard near the top and the race was split to bits. Only Kruijswijk in a marking roll and Chaves in an opportunists roll could go with him and soon they were over the top and onto a fast descent with Valverde more than a minute down. The podium was on for Nibali and for the other two it was becoming a safe bet.

Then…disaster.

On a sweeping left hand corner, Nibali kept the pressure on and, not wanting to lose contact, Kruijswijk — not known for his descending — ran wide and hard into a snow bank. He fliped over and was left on the deck as Nibali and Chaves sped on down the mountain. By the time the Dutchman got back on a new bike he was already half a minute down. By the time he reached the bottom his deficit was over a minute.

Obviously the plan by Nibali once he felt that he couldn’t distance Kruijswijk on that first climb was to try put him under pressure on the descent. This was how Eddy Merckx played it in the 1971 Tour de France when he overcame a 7min 23sec deficit to Luis Ocana by attacking relentlessly, including on the descents and finally forcing the Spaniard into an error. That error caused a crash that cost Ocana his place in the race and Merckx went on to win, but Kruijswijk was at least able to continue albeit with a much slender lead than seven some minutes and Nibali still had a lot to do to even think about winning this race yet.

The only problem was that Kruijswijk was now isolated whereas Nibali had wisely placed team-mate Michele Scarponi in the early break who now sat up to help pace him through the long valley roads before the final climb. The gap only grew and Kruijswijk grew desperate. He could feel his lead slipping away as Chaves sensed his own shot at glory. He stood to benefit the most and also had a man, Ruben Plaza, with him to help Astana with the pace setting. The Valverde group had also passed Kruijswijk and came close to rejoining Nibali and Chaves but the help they had from their respective team-mates ensured the elastic snapped and by the time they began the final climb to Risoul he was a minute behind with the pink jersey over two and a half minutes in arrears.

Bob Jungels had caught Kruijswijk and was helping with some pace setting but it soon became evidently clear what the chance, and perhaps the crash itself, had done to the Dutchman. As the road started to go up, he cracked. Even Jungels rode away from him. Before long Chaves was the new pink jersey on the road.

Not that the Orica GreenEdge rider was having it easy by any means. When Nibali launched his first attack he was able to close, but only just. The Italian was merely testing him and he clearly liked what he seen for when he kicked again the Colombian had no response and Nibali was free to fly. He was leading the stage and he was clawing his way back into this Giro d’Italia at the most crucial time.

The gaps were huge.

Chaves clearly cracked when Nibali went…the searing pace on this the19th day of racing in this Giro was clearly too much for his legs and by the time he hit the line he had conceded a whopping 53sec to Nibali, though had the joy of moving into the pink jersey when Kruijswijk trailed in 16th, 4min 54sec behind.

Another huge loser on the day was poor Ilnur Zakarin. 5th overall he too crashed on the descent of the Pinorolo, though he got it much worse than Kruijswijk. A broken collarbone ended his race and his bid for a high finish overall. At first his crash caused a lot of worry given had bad it was, so while a broken collarbone is never good, it’s worth considering that on a descent like that, it could have been even worse.

The term turning a race on its head is thrown around a lot in cycling, but this stage was the very definition of that. Valverde, who lost 2min 14sec to Nibali, is off the podium positions now; Kruijswijk is down to third tonight at 1min 5sec; Nibali up to second and Chaves in pink by 44sec.

So what now? Tomorrow’s stage is a brute too. Three major climbs before a short but steep little ramp up to the finish. Nibali is is form at long last, of that there no doubt. I suppose in a three week Grand Tour this is when you want to peak, though perhaps not with such a deficit to overcome. Kruijswijk was looking so good until today, unflappable and able to answer every move and even counter them with moves of his own. Indeed without the crash he might well have matched Nibali wheel for wheel…we’ll never know. Chaves, the man in pink? Well, he has everything to race for tomorrow but losing 53sec to Nibali over a matter of a few kilometres clearly showed he is on his limit now and the little Colombian, looking to win Orica their first Grand Tour, has just one mountain stage to survive and a 44sec lead to play with in trying to contain the Italian tomorrow.

The Shark is back to his best and senses the blood of his rivals in the water. Tomorrow should be epic.

2016 Giro d’Italia, stage 19 result:

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

2. Mikel Nieve (Sky)

3. Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge)

4. Diego Ulissi (Lampre)

5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

6. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)


16. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

in 4h 19′ 54″

@ 51″

@ 53″

@ 1′ 02″

@ 2′ 14″

s.t.


@ 4′ 54″

General classification after stage 19:

1. Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge)

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

3. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

6. Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick Step)

in 78 h 14′ 20″

@ 44″

@ 1′ 05″

@ 1′ 48″

@ 3′ 59″

@ 7′ 53″

A Dutchman back in pink as a Colombian contender takes the stage

Day-by day, climb-by-climb, one-by-one the contenders for this Giro d’Italia have fallen by the wayside as the number with the potential to win dropped from double figures, to half a dozen to five, four and today perhaps just three as the race entered the Dolomites and the general classification was turned upon its head.

It was a 210km epic from Alpago to Corvara, crossing six climbs in total, five of which had an altitude of more than 2,000 metres for a collective 5,000 plus metres of total altitude gain by the riders who spent upward of six hours in the saddle.

And by the time all was said and done we had a Colombian stage winner in Esteban Chaves, another Dutchman in the pink jersey in Steven Kruijswijk, an Italian hanging on for grim death in Vincenzo Nibali, and the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Andrey Amador, Rafal Majka, Ilnur Zakarin and Rigoberto Uran all in real trouble.

It was the kind of stage made for action and drama and while there is always the fear that such a stage might be too hard for the favourites, and without a summit finish, that they simply mark one another out of the game, that certainly wasn’t the case here. A huge break of stage hunters went clear early and build a large lead. At first it was Ruben Plaza who took up the challenge from that group, going clear and summiting the third and fourth climbs of the day before being caught and dropped by John Atampuma and Kanstansin Siutsou.

Behind the pink jersey group was reducing in number by the kilometre and soon the pink jersey of Amador was himself in trouble. Fighting to keep in contact the elastic snapped on the crippling Passo Giau and Amador was left watching his overall ambitions disappear up the road. But not so fast. The Costa Rican with an entire nation behind him as the first ever leader of the Giro from his country, turned to his descending skills for a second straight day and pulled back almost a minute on those in front, joining up before the final categorized climb. It was an incredible effort, but it always felt like it would be in vain once the road turned upwards again on the Passo Valparola, and so it proved to be.

It was also proving to be trouble for a lot of other men in the top ten overall too. At first Nibali stretched his legs before the two quiet men of the top ten thus far, Kruijswijk and Chaves attacked. Content to have spent the first 13 stages hanging tight, keeping out of trouble and monitoring their rivals; ensuring they remained close for when this key stage arrived, it was the Dutchman who made the first move and the Colombian who reacted. Nibali lost the wheel and was in trouble; Valverde and the rest were blown away.

By the top of the Passo Valparola we had stage hunter Atapuma off alone but his time coming down rapidly to the two pink jersey hunters riding hard behind, with Nibali doing his level best to limit his loses. The gap appeared to be hovering around 30sec between each group, but by the top of a short-sharp little climb near the finish that wasn’t categoriesd, Kruijswijk, Chaves and Georg Preidler — another remnant from the days early break — had Atapuma in their sites, and with just a few clicks to ride, he was caught. The Colombian from the BMC team must have felt dismayed though all it served to do was hand the stage glory from one Colombian to another as Chaves out sprinted the other three to take the stage win and the small time bonus as Kruijswijk rolled in second and into the pink jersey.

All eyes were on the stopwatch now and it was Nibali who came in next, 37sec down. Further back was Zakarin and Majka at 2min 29sec; Uran at 2min 50sec; and Valverde in a small group at a staggering 3min. The pink jersey of Andrey Amador finished 3min 52sec down and, if you’re still counting, Bob Jungles rolled home at 6min 21sec.

Coming into this Giro if you’d been told after this queen stage, with 13 days of racing completed, that a Dutchman was in the race lead, you’d have assumed it would be Dumoulin given his Vuelta last year, given the expectations on him, and certainly given how he started the first few days. But Dumoulin is back home now, long since abandoned and Dutch dreams are now very much on the shoulders of Kruijswijk. It’s been a long time since the Dutch had any viable GC contender, never mind one taking over from another in the same Giro. Indeed it has been 36 years since the last Dutchman won a Grand Tour: Joop Zootemelk at the 1980 Tour de France. They’ve never had a winner of the Giro.

But while Kruijswijk contending to this degree is a bit of a surprise, it’s not as if he’s someone without pedigree. He’s had two top ten finished at this race in the past and in reality his odds should probably have been shorter than Dumoulin’s. A top 5 was always a possibility; all the LottoNL-Jumbo rider has done here is take it up a notch; rider smarter than in the past and put himself in the right place at the right time.

Only two men are now within a minute of Kruijswijk: Nibali at 41sec, who despite looking vulnerable today, is still very much in the reckoning ahead of tomorrow’s uphill time-trial and will remain confident in the knowledge that the longest climbs are still to come and those should still play into his favour; and Chaves at 1min 32sec. Valverde is 4th at a distant 3min 6sec.

There’s a long way to go, but now, at last, we truly have our small handful of real contenders to win here. The winner should come from one of three men, baring something spectacular. Everyone else has either abandoned or fallen by the wayside as the intensity, climbing and grind has been ramped up.

It’s only going to get harder.

Giro d’Italian 2016, stage 14 result:

1. Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge)

2. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

3. Georg Prediger (Giant-Alpecin)

4. John Atapuma (BMC)

5. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

6. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data)

in 6h 06′ 16″

all s.t.

@ 6″

@ 37″

s.t.

General classification after stage 14:

1. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

3. Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge)

4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

5. Andrey Amador (Movistar)

6. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)

in 60h 12′ 43″

@ 41″

@ 1′ 32″

@ 3′  06″

@ 3′ 15″

@ 3′ 29″

 

Over at the Tour of California…
Following Julian Alaphilippe’s victory in the queen stage a few days ago that gave him the race leader overall, Peter Sagan took another stage win, Toms Skujins won a stage in the mountains, Rohan Dennis took the individual time-trial stage, and Alexander Kristoff pipped Peter Sagan for first today. Overall Alaphilippe maintains his GC lead ahead of Dennis by 16sec with Brent Bookwalter in third at 38sec.

Nibali DQ’d for taking a tow

It’s been a turbulent start to the Vuelta what with a riders complaint about safety leading to the times taken in yesterday’s team-time-trial, finishing on a beach in Marbella, not counting to the general classification, and then today, Vincenzo Nibali being disqualified from the race for holding onto his Astana team car after being held up by a crash and losing contact with his rivals.

As a result of the times not counting towards the GC, the team-time-trial was nothing more than a show piece, highlighted by Team Sky coming third-last, more than a minute behind the winner, Team BMC. Thankfully the likes of BMC, Tinkoff-Saxo and Orica GreenEdge, proud competitors in team-time-trials and with an eye on next months World Championships, still took it serious and raced it hard with BMC covering the course in a time of 8min 10sec, a mere second better off than Tinkoff and Orica.

But enough on that. The real action and first attempt at time gains took place on the Sunday and it was no gentle induction into the third Grand Tour of the season. Rather, a stage with hills and a short-sharp summit finish to Caminito del Rey in which Esteban Chaves of Orica GreenEdge timed his attacks to perfection coming in a second up on Tom Dumoulin with the Irish pair of Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin coming in at 9sec and 14sec respectively.

Nairo Quintana was the biggest of the big names to show his hand when he attacked but he couldn’t sustain it, perhaps evidence of post-Tour rust, though he did gain a psychological 4sec gap on Chris Froome.

But all the drama was reserved for the 2010 Vuelta champion who, perhaps in seeing a second successive Grand Tour go up in smoke when held up by a stage 2 crash, reached for the panic button. Vincenzo Nibali, while at the front of a large chasing group, suddenly grabbed onto his team-car, and within a handful of seconds had gained a huge gap on those with him. The penalty to later disqualify him may have seemed harsh in the moment, given how often we see riders ‘taking a tow’ behind a team-car following an accident or indeed using the services of a ‘sticky bottle’, but when helicopter camera footage later emerged showing how blatant the offence was, the decision was obvious.

It’s a shame though because it would have been good to see Nibali in the mix with Froome and Quintana, and indeed to have seen how the inter-team rivalry between himself, Aru and Landa would have played out. But we can thank the crash itself for that as much has his own stupidity because even had he not held onto the car its clear he would have lost significant time and likely have put himself out of the running, much like stage 2 at the Tour. Even the 10 minute time-penalty he longed for would have done that.

Nibali later apologised for his actions and said he felt a time-penalty would have sufficed while claiming this stuff happens more than you think before criticising his team for not waiting for him en-mass, but it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Perhaps it’s understandable why he did it: a moment of desperation, or frustration, that forced his hand, though the better question he might have asked of his team was why, in the heat of the moment, the team-car actually agreed to speed up when he grabbed hold? Either way, the rules are clear and so too was the video footage.

Stage 2 result: Overall:
1. Chaves (OGE)

2. Dumoulin (TGA)

3. Roche (SKY)

4. D. Martin (TCG)

5. Rodriguez (KAT)

6. Quintana (MOV)


7. Froome (SKY)
8. Valverde (MOV)
10. Aru (AST)
12. Landa (AST)
15. Van Garderen (BMC)
DSQ. Nibali (AST)

in 3h 57′ 25″

@ 1″

@ 9″

@ 14″

@ 26″

ST

@ 30″
@ 31″
@ 37″
ST
@ 45″
DSQ

1. Chaves (OGE)

2. Dumoulin (TGA)

3. Roche (SKY)

4. D. Martin (TCG)

5. Rodriguez (KAT)

6. Quintana (MOV)

TTT results:
1. BMC
2. Tinkoff Saxo
3. Orica GreenEdge
4. Lotto-Jumbo

20. Team Sky

in 3h 57′ 25″

@ 5″

@ 15″

@ 24″

@ 36″

ST

in 8′ 10″
@ 1″
ST
@ 8″

@ 1′ 11″