Esteban Chaves soloed to victory atop Mountain High on stage six of the Amgen Tour of California. The Colombian was part of the early breakaway and one of three from the escape to hold off the peloton on the summit finish. It is the first win for Chaves at ORICA-GreenEDGE, and the first win for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the Tour of California.
“This is a very, very, very important win,” said Chaves. “With my crash and my big injuries last year, I didn’t know if it was going to be possible to be a professional cyclist. To win stage six today at the Tour of California – it’s something amazing.”
The Australian outfit had planned to ride for Adam Yates on stage six. The young Briton recently won the Tour of Turkey and had shown promise on the Mount Diablo stage where he mistimed an attack in the closing kilometres and missed out on the stage win. Yates wanted redemption and saw Mountain High as his chance.
In keeping with the directives he was given, when Chaves saw Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), Jack Bobridge (Belkin), David de la Cruz (NeApp-Endura), Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk) and Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare) jump out of the bunch, he followed wheels to cover the move. The six escapees would gain a maximum advantage of 4’20 by the mid-point of the stage.
“There was great teamwork in the break,” said Chaves. “All six riders were very strong. We worked together to stay away from the peloton.”
The breakaway hit the lower slopes of Mountain High with 3’30 over the peloton. Forty uphill kilometres left to race, the move began to look like it might go the distance. Megias and Jones were the first to fall off the pace largely set by their breakmates. Back in the bunch, the peloton began to lose riders as well.
Chaves won in style. He launched a bold attack 5.7 kilometres from the finish. His acceleration immediately distanced Bobridge, Danielson and de la Cruz, and he maintained his advantage all the way to the finish.
“Last night I did some homework with Mat Hayman,” explained Chaves. “I studied the climb on the Internet. I knew that the last five kilometres were very steep. I picked out this place and said if the bunch isn’t close, this is where I will attack. I did it exactly as I planned.”
Back in the bunch, Team Sky set a blistering pace that thinned out the peloton and discouraged attacks. Garmin-Sharp, hoping to move Rohan Dennis up on the general classification, sent riders up the road. Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky) steadily neutralised each attempt, tirelessly riding tempo on the front of the field.
An attack from Peter Stetina (BMC) split the field, prompting the formation of an elite group of chasers. Adam Yates had made the selection that included race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Dennis, Stetina, George Bennett (Cannondale) and Lawson Craddock (Giant Shimano). Launching with the line in sight, Yates led the yellow jersey group home. The effort was good for fourth place on the stage.