The international peloton of professional riders consists of a few hundred cyclists that enjoy climbing over mountains and whizzing through picturesque villages. Many of the riders are well-known to the general public, but there are plenty of names that are still worth watching despite a lack of media attention. Esteban Chaves is a classic Colombian climber and a name for the future.
Chaves has Colombian roots, and if you want to cycle anywhere at all in that country you have to be able to climb. The most well-known and most successful Colombian climber today is Nairo Quintana, but there have been a long line of successful Colombian cyclists before him. Names such as Santiago Botero (ex-World Champion in individual time trial 2002), Fabio Parra (third place in the Tour de France 1988), and Mauricio Soler (king of the mountains in the Tour de France 2007) all hit the sports headlines in their day.
Chaves has yet to show his full potential in the Tour de France, but he has already shown some serious class during the Giro d’Italia.
Chaves turned pro in 2009, but it was only after he joined the (then) Orica Greenedge team in 2014 that he came into full view of international fans. The Australian team has allowed him to taste world-class cycling action. In 2015, that paid off for him and the team when he won two stages during the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a España) and finished fifth overall.
He went from strength to strength, and in 2016 he won a stage in the Giro to finish an overall second place. In the same year, he rode the Vuelta, ending third overall, and then went on to win the one-day classic Tour of Lombardy.
In 2017, Chaves did less well. He rode the Tour de France for the first time, but he hit a brick wall. He was not on form, and later in the year, during the Giro, it was clear that he was not in a happy place. Every rider is familiar with a dip year, when they struggle with their form and unimpressive results.
Luckily this season seems to have started better for Chaves. He won the Herald Sun Tour, and won a stage in the Giro (see photo). However, later in the race, he fell dramatically out of the top 10.
Chaves is a rider who has to attack on the climbs, and if you give him a gap you may not see him again. He’s great to watch when the gradients go up, and is someone who clearly enjoys himself on the bike. He may well have his best days ahead of him.