A little over 20 minutes or so after the finish of stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia, the leaders of the team classification were called to the podium in Gualdo Tadino to accept the day’s honours. As maglia rosa Simon Yates, Mikel Nieve and Jack Haig climbed rather self-consciously onto the dais, the finish area beneath them was milling with television crews awaiting the arrival of a conspicuous absentee from the subdued Mitchelton-Scott party.
Esteban Chaves had begun the day in second place overall, and he betrayed no signs of unease at the start in Penne, smiling serenely for the cameras as he warmed up on the rollers in preparation for the day’s early opening climb, the stiff Fonte della Creta.
Within moments of the flag dropping, however, Chaves was in considerable discomfort, and he was distanced definitively when the bunch ruptured midway up the climb. For the bones of 100 kilometres or so, his group’s deficit oscillated between one and two minutes, before it opened brutally and inexorably towards the midpoint of the Giro’s longest day.
By the time Chaves grimly hit the climb of Annifo in the finale, he already trailed the bunch by more than a quarter of an hour. On the rain-spattered roads on the run-in, his disadvantage crept up still further, and it briefly looked as though he would cross the finish line at the precise moment his teammates were being feted on the podium.
In the end, Chaves could be grateful for small mercies. His final deficit of 25 minutes on stage winner Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) meant that the podium ceremonies had already wound down by the time he eventually reached the finish in a group of 30 or so riders, beneath darkening skies.
Anxious television crews edged into the centre of the road as they scanned the haunted, grimy faces of the back-markers that ghosted past, straining for the first glimpse of Chaves. Once his blue jersey was sighted, Chaves was encircled by a net of cameras and microphones, but a soigneur helped to cut him loose and guide him into open waters. The Colombian soft-pedalled gently out of the finish area and towards his team bus, a troupe of reporters jogging after him.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com