Giro d’Italia 2019: Stage 19 – The Fierce Joy of Esteban Chaves

With Stage 19 kicking off the final weekend of the 2019 Giro d’Italia and a mountain top finish on tap, one could have expected to see fireworks from the overall contenders. After all, time is ticking down for Vincenzo Nibali and Primoz Roglic to pull back time on an on-form Richard Carapaz and formidable Movistar team. Much like the previous 18  stages, however, the GC contenders and their teams appeared to have little interest in contesting the stage win, preferring to allow a non-threatening breakaway to take the day …

Luckily for the rest of us, this opened the door to a thrilling finale filled with accelerations, regroupings, more accelerations, and a winner that can make even the most curmudgeonous of us happy. Esteban Chaves (MItchelton-Scott) and his never-ending smile soloed to his first win since last year’s Giro. Andrea Vendrame of Androni-every-sponsor-ever crossed the line second after suffering an untimely mechanical whilst Amaro Antunes, clad in the orange of CCC, claimed third.

Rider of the Race

Who else can it be but Esteban Chaves? No one. That’s who…

His breakaway companions were well aware of the fact that he would be the one to watch. As the road tilted upwards in the final 30km, Chaves became the man to lean on. If an attack went – and there were many – all eyes were on Chaves. Much like Peter Sagan, his competitors wanted him to close the gaps whilst they benefited from the tow. Unlike Peter Sagan, however, Chaves was tactically astute. He closed gaps when necessary, but allowed others like Nipo’s Marco Canola to go up the road, forcing the likes of Pieter Serry, Francois Bidard, and Vendrame to put in effort.

By no means, however, did Chaves simply follow wheels. Once the breakaway was whittled down to Serry, Bidard, Vendrame and Chaves, the Colombian repeatedly, and ruthlessly, accelerated in efforts to drop his companions. But as the kilometres ticked by, the group was still together and a flattening at the finish line was approaching. Chaves either needed a stinger attack that would distance all others, or risk being beaten handily in a sprint. Then, it came.

In a flurry of events that began with Bidard attacking near the 3km mark, followed by Vendrame – who was favoured to win the group sprint – dropping his chain as he attempted to switch to the big ring, and finally ending with a final Chaves attack, the elastic broke.

With 2.4km remaining, Chaves was on a charge to the finish line. One pedal stroke after another, cycling’s Smiling Assassin was pushing himself toward cheering crowds, exuberant Twitter fans, and a victory that would mark his comeback from the Epstein-Barr virus, an illness that put a stop to the majority of his season in 2018.

Chaves is a story of what makes cycling so special. From the highest of highs to the lowest of years, Michelton-Scott continue to put their faith behind him. It’s not something you see all that often nowadays, but it is one of the most spine-tingling events that warms our hearts as fans. And when Chaves is on a good year, he repays the trust dearly. A Chaves win is a win for the people.

And a happy win for his family. Tears of pure joy right there, I tell ya.

What could have been…?

Whilst all the love and attention goes to Esteban Chaves, we must take a moment to think of what could have been for Androni and Andrea Vendrame if not for an untimely mechanical in the final kilometres

Vendrame looked poised to win the stage in the closing kilometres. Chaves’ accelerations were unable to dislodge him from the group, and with a flat(ish) finish, he had the best opportunity to win from the select group. Unfortunately, Vendrame suffered a late mechanical when he dropped his chain by attempting to switch to the big ring in response to Bidard’s attack.

It is hard to say, of course, what could have been had this mechanical not fallen upon him, but by the pure fact that he was not only able to follow Chaves through his countless accelerations, but also managed to claim second, just a handful of seconds behind Chaves, after a bike change suggests that he very well could have been the one for victory had everything not gone awry.

Dear GC Contenders: Time Is Ticking

Frankly, when I saw today’s stage profile, I was really excited for the overall showdown on the mountain top finish. I’ve missed a lot of this year’s race due to an otherwise busy life, so my thought was “Yes! I am finally going to see the gauntlet being thrown down! Today’s the day!”

Spoiler alert: Today was not the day.

Carapaz, Nibali, and Roglic all neutralised each other.

Superman Lopez was the only one to launch an attack and gain time, but after starting the stage more than 6 minutes off the pink jersey, it was little to bat an eye at.

So, we wait until tomorrow, which brings us a razor-toothed profile packed with 4 climbs in 194km and one last mountain top finish. Expect Roglic and Nibali to look to take back time on Carapaz before Sunday’s closing time trial. The race is still left to be played.

Stage Results – Top 5

1. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) at 4:01:31

2. Andrea Vendrame (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) at 0:10

3. Amaro Antunes (CCC Team) at 0:12

4. Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani CSF) at 0:24

5. Pieter Serry (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 0:32

General Classification – Top 10

1 Richard Carapaz (Movistar Team) at 83:52:22

2 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at 01:54

3 Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 02:16

4 Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) at 03:03

5 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) at 05:07

6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) at 05:33

7 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 06:48

8 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) at 07:17

9 Pavel Sivakov (Team Ineos) at 08:27

10 Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 10:06

All the jerseys

Maglia rosa – Richard Carapaz (Movistar)

Maglia blanca – Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

Maglia azzurra – Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)

Maglia ciclamino – Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe)

For full stage review and race results, go to cyclingnews

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