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The Colombian star struggled out of the gate since the Vuelta started, and went into Tuesday’s time trial hovering in the middle of the pack on GC after missing the early legs to stay with the likes of Remco Evenepoel in the first full week in Spain.
“I felt good at the start, and now I am really tired and I am just surviving. It’s been so intense since the race started,” Chaves told VeloNews. “The road puts everyone in their place.”
Chaves returns to the Vuelta for the seventh time in his career. As a member of the “Class of 1990,” Chaves used to light up the Spanish grand tour, finishing third in 2016.
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After being zapped by mononucleosis late in 2017, Chaves has struggled to regain his former spark. He hit out for 13th in last year’s Tour de France, his first top-15 since 2017.
A move to EF Education-EasyPost this season after eight seasons with BikeExchange-Jayco saw Chaves post some strong early results, including seventh at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June and second at the Mont Ventoux challenge, but that wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on EF’s Tour team.
“Right now we are at the Vuelta a España, and we need to stay focused on that,” Chaves said carefully about the Tour selection. “There are some things you cannot change, that you cannot control. What you can control now is to train hard, do the work, and accept the results at the end of the day.”
Chaves, now 32, vows to “keep racing and keep smiling” as the Vuelta hits its equator.
“I came here with big ambitions, and I trained so hard for that, but the road quickly puts you in your place,” Chaves said. “That’s racing. You have to accept that, and keep working, and keep pushing.”
Chaves: ‘I feel like I let down the team’
After coming out of the big weekend in Spain’s Basque Country being unable to match the accelerations from the GC leaders, Chaves hopes to salvage this Vuelta campaign with a run for a stage win.
“I really want to pay the team back,” Chaves said in a team release this week. “I see how hard everyone works. Everyone gives 100 percent.
“It’s not just physical,” he said. “Mentally, it’s disappointing. I have been in these situations before, and I know how it is, but it still hurts. I feel like I let down the team.”