Esteban Chaves keeps on smiling as he chases Tour de France return

Colombian climber out to convince everyone he can still hang with the best in the peloton.

Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

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SAINT PAULIEN, France (VN) — Esteban Chaves has a new team kit and new teammates, but his ambitions and eternal smile remain the same.

The Colombian climber insists he’s still the same rider who hit grand tour podiums, and is holding out hope to earn a spot on EF Education-EasyPost’s roster for the Tour de France.

Speaking to VeloNews, the ever optimistic Chaves is hoping for the best.

“I am still a GC guy,” Chaves said. “It’s a long way to the Tour de France and it’s a long list. Like every single team, you need to show you are good enough to go.”

The 32-year-old Colombian is out to prove to everyone he can still compete at the highest level. He’s been dogged by health issues and injuries for much of his career, and he’s still managed to carve out some impressive results.

Also read: Chaves lands at EF Education-EasyPost

When he’s healthy, he’s one of the most explosive climbers in the bunch. Or at least he used to be. Now he’s on a mission to show everyone he still is.

Last year, he rode to 13th overall in his third Tour start in his best grand tour result since he was second in the 2016 Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a España that same year in his breakout season.

Like many teams, EF Education-EasyPost is waiting to see who’s riding strong and consistent this month before committing to eight riders to race the Tour.

Chaves rode to ninth overall at the Tour of Norway last month and hopes to ride deep into this Dauphiné to earn a ticket to the Tour.

“You have to prove it to yourself as well,” Chaves said. “It’s a long way to the Tour de France, so you must convince the team, and everything can change in one day. We just go day-by-day and week-by-week, and just enjoy it.”

New team, same vibrations

Esteban Chaves is trying to work his way back to the front in a key season. (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Chaves rocked up to the Critérium du Dauphiné this week wearing a beach hat and brandishing his trademark smile.

After racing for the GreenEdge franchise his entire WorldTour career, he switched to EF in 2022 on a one-year contract.

“New jersey, new bike, new staff, new teammates, everything is challenging and you want to do your best. You want to be professional, you want to push,” Chaves said. “You want to show you can do it.”

Chaves is taking all the change in stride.

At GreenEdge, he was the center of the team’s GC ambitions for years. At EF Education-EasyPost, he’s finding his way.

“It’s pretty nice on this team. I spent a long time in one organization. It was a bit of a shock and I needed time to adapt to the new team,” Chaves said. “It’s exciting and change can be a good thing. I am happy to do this change. I was a long time there and the organization gave me the best years of my career, but sometimes change is a good thing.”

His 2022 hasn’t been as smooth as he would have liked. He was overlooked for such races as Itzulia Basque Country and the Giro d’Italia, and he struggled at the Volta a Catalunya with 44th, and did not finish the Tour of the Alps.

“The beginning wasn’t what I had expected, I had some COVID, and now we are on a good path after a block training in Andorra with the guys,” Chaves said. “We went to Norway and now we are here looking for a lot for this race.”

Chaves got things back on track at the Tour of Norway, riding to ninth.

That’s good for his best stage race GC since last year’s Tour, perhaps a sign that things are moving in the right direction just at the right time.

Chaves is battling through the opening stages at the Dauphiné. After two sprint stages, he arrived with the favorites on the short but explosive finale in stage 3.

He will start Wednesday’s individual time trial seventh overall.

No matter how he ends the day, he will be smiling.

“We are here to try for the GC. We have [Mark] Padun as well,” he said. “Up until the TT, then we will see, everything will change after the time trial.”

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