Giro d’Italia stage 19: Chaves bounces back to victory
After spending much of 2018 struggling with ill health, Esteban Chaves returns to the top of the sport with a stage win at the Giro d'Italia
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Having spent the second half of 2018 sidelined by Epstein-Barr virus, Esteban Chaves took an emotional comeback victory on stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia Friday. The Colombian climber went one place better than his second spot on stage 17 to cross the line with clenched fists and then celebrate with family.
Although he’d ridden a series of stage races in France and Spain earlier this year, it was his first victory since winning on Mount Etna in last year’s Giro. The Mitchelton-Scott rider didn’t race for months after the 2018 Giro as he struggled to get to the root cause of a spectacular collapse of form during the race.
“I haven’t real words for this,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I was crying [at the line]. Everyone was crying.
“This was a victory for anyone who supported me or followed me.”
For the fifth successive stage, the race was decided from riders who’d got in an early breakaway. Chaves had to attack repeatedly on the second category final climb to break clear on his own.
Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) was left wondering what might have been when he finished second, having unshipped his chain while still in the company of Chaves. And behind Amaro Antunes (CCC) in third place, Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF) took a notable fourth, having chased on his own for 40km to join the main escape.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) made a small gain on GC when he attacked in the closing kilometres from the main group of overall contenders. Although he clawed back 44 seconds, he remains in sixth place.
There was no such gain for Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), in third overall, who also attacked nearer the summit of the final climb. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in second place and pink jersey Richard Carapaz (Movistar) wouldn’t give him an inch. Lopez aside, the GC favorites finished together over 6-minutes behind Chavez.
The breakaway took shape in the first few kilometers of the stage, a short 151km from Treviso to San Martino di Castrozza. Initially numbering 11, Carboni made it a dozen after his long pursuit.
Large crowds greeted the race on the Passo di San Boldo, which, although only a third cat climb, offers the spectacle of the road laddering up the hillside between hairpin bends tunnelled in the rock.
Local man Manuele Boaro (Astana) tried his luck over the top of the next climb, the fourth cat Ponte Oltre, but was brought back on the valley roads with 20km to go. A flurry of attacks from the group eventually saw Marco Canola go clear, likely encouraged by his Nippo-Vini Fantini team mate’s win one day earlier.
Canola led onto the foot of the final climb with 13.6km of average 5.6% gradient ahead of him. Chaves, Vendrame, François Bidard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Pieter Serry (Deceuninck-Quick Step), amongst others, all tried tentative moves behind him, and it was these four who bridged up, then later dropped him, with 7km remaining.
Chaves, a multiple stage winner and twice podium finisher in grand tours, was really in a class of his own in the group. But still not quite back at his best, he struggled to shake off his company on the moderate slopes.
Repeatedly, Chavez made accelerations but was clawed back. Finally, after Vendrame had succumbed to his mechanical, Chavez broke the elastic on some curves snaking between the trees at 2.7km to go.
Once alone, he was committed.
“You need to attack and attack, until you arrive at the finish line,” he said.
Results will be available once stage has completed.