'Chavito' has quickly become one of the darlings of the Australian cycling media and it is no surprise when you see how well he fits into the Aussie archetypes of identity.
1. The Aussie Battler
Admiring the perseverance and courage it takes to come back from adversity is one of the key defining narratives of Australian culture. A story of a comeback takes a normal tale of a win in a sporting event to a moment of heroism in the eyes of the public.
Kieran Perkins overcoming poor form and lane eight to win gold, ending 132 years of American dominance in the America’s Cup and John Landy making up the deficit after helping Ron Clarke to his feet are all key moments in Australian sporting psyche. Coming back from a near career-ending crash in 2013 at the Trofeo Laigueglia, Chaves fits right into the mold. The team doctor at the time had this assessment of Chaves' injuries.
"Esteban suffered a compound fracture to his right collarbone, fractures in his left petrous bone, right cheekbone, maxillary sinuses and sphenoid bone, while also receiving pulmonary compressions, abrasions and suspected ribs infractions."
The worst was yet to come, as diagnosed nerve damage threatened his cycling career, with nine doctors telling him that he wouldn't be able to get back on the bike. Eventually finding a specialist who would attempt to help him, then Orica-GreenEDGE threw him a lifeline, allowing him to return to racing.
2. The Laid-Back Larrikin
Chaves doesn't mind a joke or three, you can see from the Backstage Passes how well he fits into the Aussie team, often pulling a practical joke or 'taking the piss' on camera.
It was always going to be a question how a tiny Colombian was going to fit into the culture of the very ‘matey’ Orica-GreenEDGE. It’s not for everyone, just ask Ivan Santoromita.
Chaves however, seems very at home with the Aussie mindset, see below his response to Mat Hayman’s Paris-Roubaix win.
4. Tall Poppy Syndrome
Probably less important than it once was, the likes of Shane Warne, Anthony Mundine and James Magnussen have shown that we’re prepared to worship serial boasters… as long as they can back it up. Chaves none the less avoids this pitfall entirely by being humble in victory and not letting his ego get ahead of his ability.
5. Success gets you citizenship
Whether it is Phar Lap, Russell Crowe or the humble pavlova, there is little that Australia won’t claim if it proves to be successful. Chaves started turning heads with wins in the queen stages of races like the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse, but with his Grand Tour showings, fans can now realistically contemplate a maiden Grand Tour win for an Australian team.
Of course it all helps that Chaves has a great smile as well. When you can light up a stage with those pearly whites, whilst it’s not particularly Australian in nature, it’s hard to deny his charm. It’s hard to think of anyone who would be unhappy to see the pint-sized Colombian atop the podium in Turin representing Australia by proxy at the head of an Australian team. And what's more Aussie than a barbecue to celebrate?