• Esteban Chaves rode into second place overall at the Santos Tour Down Under. (Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography)Source: Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography
Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) held onto his second position overall despite a spirited attempt from Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) and Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) to dislodge the pint-sized climber with time bonuses in the intermediate sprints.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
22 Jan 2017 - 7:58 PM 

Chaves was his normal smiling self after the race and was clearly happy with his second overall and form this early in the season.

“I’m really happy, not just for me but the whole team," Chaves said. "We won four stages, the crit (People's Choice Classic) and second overall so it’s really beautiful for the start of the season. To start the season with this form for me is unbelievable.”

Porte cruises to TDU title as Ewan wins the finale
Richie Porte confirmed his first career Santos Tour Down Under overall victory as Caleb Ewan again proved unbeatable on the final stage of the 2017 race.

Chaves normally builds into his season slowly and his results in his past three seasons at Orica-Scott have been largely unremarkable in the early races but finishing off the season with a string of quality wins.

This year that dynamic has been flipped on its head as he built some strong form at home in Colombia before coming out to Australia to race the summer schedule.

“It’s different, normally I start in February in Europe with the French races and then in early March in Catalunya. But this year we try to do different, we come here for the summer and start different," he said.

“In the other seasons the start of the season is super hard as March and April when it’s cold, it’s not really good for me. So we try this year this for me, it’s different. We will see, it’s an experiment.”

Despite the change in season planning that has seen him tackle the Giro d'Italia in recent years, Chaves was reluctant to confirm whether or not it signalled a tilt at the Tour de France this year.

“I don’t know if I go toward the Tour de France," he said. "When we finish the Australian season, I’ll go back to Columbia for the nationals and then there is the decision as to what the next race is.”

One of the Colombian's biggest contenders, if the decision is made for him to race in July, will be Richie Porte (BMC) who he got to see up close during the race.

Chaves was suitably impressed with the Tasmanian’s early season form but was far from conceding he was unbeatable in the biggest races later in the season.

“It’s true, Richie started really well here and showed a really good performance on the two climbs. He has no contender at the moment," he said.

"We will see what happens after we get to Europe, in Europe it is different, the stages longer, longer climbs. I’ll see how we go, step by step.”

When asked what the BMC rider’s biggest strengths were, Chaves was joking in his response but indicated that now that he’s had one go at the race, it may set him up for a future tilt at the title, perhaps as soon as next season.

“Biggest strengths… he climbed really good. There are no secrets,' Chaves said. "This guy, he’s super skinny now, he trained really well, he knows the race. For me, it’s the first time I’m here, now I know and next year maybe I’ll try again. You need to train well, eat less and climb fast.”

Everything is possible for birthday boy Chaves
Confidence is one of the traits that makes a true champion. Ask a professional cyclist if they can win a particular stage or event and you’ll more likely than not know the result before the race has even been run.

Chaves will be racing next at the Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race, but fans will be most excited to see the tiny Colombian go head-to-head with three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome in the Herald Sun Tour.

There will be several stages that will suit the climbers and it may be the first chance to strike a psychological blow ahead of any possible Grand Tour meeting.