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GUALDO TADINO, Italy (VN) — Esteban Chaves must forget about winning the Giro d’Italia or even a podium place alongside his Mitchelton-Scott teammate and race leader Simon Yates. In the wet and cold central regions of Italy, he lost touch with the leaders and slid from second to 39th overall.
The Colombian enjoyed the rest day with Yates Monday in Pescara. The first climb on stage 10 the next day, around 20 kilometers from the start in the Abruzzo region, was anything but restful. The small climber — second overall in the 2016 Giro — was dropped by the speeding peloton. Despite a hard chase with three teammates, he slipped away. Chaves finished 25 minutes back at the end of the 244-kilometer stage.
“That’s the Giro,” Chaves said at the team bus in Umbria’s Gualdo Tadino, encircled by microphones and television cameras.
“I’ve got a difficult relationship with Italy; it’s love and hate. Just a few days ago, I enjoyed one of the best days of my career and now it’s hard for my morale. But that’s life, we can only do our best. The important thing is that we’ve still got the leader’s jersey. Our plans won’t change.”
Instead of Chaves, 2017 Giro victor Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) now sits second behind Yates at 41 seconds.
The fall came hard and fast for Chaves, who won the Mount Etna stage last week in Sicily. Yates took the lead that day and the team steamrolled into the weekend where Yates won the Gran Sasso stage and Chaves placed third.
“He’s going to be disappointed, his general classification has gone out of the window,” the team’s sports director Matt White said.
“That’s bike racing, isn’t it? It wasn’t what we expected, it’s an intermediate mountain stage, and Esteban third on one of the hardest mountain stages, 48 hours ago. I don’t know what happened, I’m presuming it’s allergies.”
Three teammates rode at Chaves’s side and he had the help of team Quick-Step Floors working for Viviani. The gap to the group with Yates almost reached one minute, but then ballooned beyond recovery.
Chaves knew the road well. On the rest day, he and White drove the first 100 kilometers to analyze it because they considered it important. And since many teams knew that it would be a fast start, they were on turbo trainers in the start town of Penne.
“It was tricky to know the time gaps,” White continued. “It came to one minute at one stage but other key GC teams wanted to lay the boot in, and they did. It was non-stop racing, the longest stage of the Giro, straight after the rest day, 3,500 meters to 4,000 meters of vertical climbing, it was a tough day.”
The team now turns all of its focus on Yates, who has already placed seventh overall in the 2017 Tour de France and sixth in the 2016 Vuelta a España.
“Nothing changes. We’re still trying to win the Giro,” White said. “Esteban’s chances for GC are gone, which means I’ve got one very handy helper for Simon when it matters.”
“I think it becomes harder because we are on the final climbs and before, we had two cards to play,” Yates explained after putting on the pink jersey for a fifth day.
“Now it’s only me and we’ll have to adjust. For sure he’ll be a strong help for me in the climbs, so you can look at it two ways.”