Esteban Chaves makes it in at number five in the 100 Best Road Riders of 2016 list after his impressive Grand Tour performances
5. Esteban Chaves
26, Colombia, Orica-BikeExchange
2016 wins: 3
Esteban Chaves, the Colombian whose infamous wide grin encapsulates the enjoyment and satisfaction he has on a bike, quite possibly had the most complete year of any of the sport’s climbers.
The 26-year-old came second at the Giro d’Italia and third at the Vuelta a España (behind the two most outstanding current GC riders, Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome) before then showing his credentials in one-day races, winning the fifth and final Monument of the year, Il Lombardia, a week after he won the 99th edition of the Giro dell’Emilia.
Chaves’s rise in becoming cycling’s (and Colombia’s) next big hope, is even more staggering when you take into account that that prior to the 2015 Vuelta – when he finished fifth – he hadn’t really exhibited the form that heralded him as a future Grand Tour winner. His transformation in 12 months has been phenomenal.
Indeed, there was a very real possibility that he would have won his maiden three-week race this year, in what was a memorably unpredictable Giro.
After Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) nosedived into a banking of snow on stage 19, Chaves inherited the maglia rosa.
He had a 44 second advantage to hold over a resurgent Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the penultimate day, but he lost contact with the Italian on the Coll dellla Lombarda, thus relinquishing his lead and settling for second.
Ever the optimist, however, the humble Colombian wasn’t crestfallen. He simply sought to seek the positives.
“It’s more important that they were here,” he said of his parents who were visiting Europe for the first time, adding: “I’ve only lost a bike race.”
Chaves is loved for his unassuming, joyous outlook. Already the first Colombian to win a Monument, he is surely set to emulate his compatriot Quintana and win multiple Grand Tours.
My favourite rider…
By Nigel Wynn, Associate Digital Editor
Fans of Grand Tours are always on the hunt for the next big star of three-week races. They need look no further, as Esteban Chaves showed this season that he has got the ‘next big thing’ covered.
Prior to this year, the ever-smiling 26-year-old Colombian’s rise as been steady, showing great promise with the Colombia-Coldeportes team and then realising that promise after signing for Australian WorldTour outfit Orica-BikeExchange for 2014.
Fifth in the 2015 Vuelta a España showed what he is capable of, followed this year by second overall in the Giro d’Italia and then third overall in the Vuelta. Only two other riders also achieved two Grand Tour podium positions in 2016: Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana – that’s very good company to keep.
It’s a result all the more remarkable given that Orica is still way behind the likes of Sky and Movistar in providing a team to support Chaves.
A win in Il Lombardia in October was the final flourish in a fantastic season for Chaves. His cheerful post-race interviews and enthusiastic attacking on the bike have already won him many fans. What will 2017 hold for this rapidly rising talent?