No one knows what to expect from Esteban Chaves in his upcoming Tour de France debut. Orica-Scott sport director Matt White knows one thing: Chaves will fight any way he can.
The 27-year-old Colombian is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for four months. After a discreet, but trouble-free return to racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné, White expects Chaves to be a factor. He just doesn’t know how much.
“The big question is how that break is going to affect his performance in July,” White said. “He’s where he needs to be in terms of his recovery. So we’ll see how far he can go. They’ll be no more pressure than what any driven athlete puts on his himself. [Chaves] wants to do something, don’t worry about that. Our guys are really ambitious.”
After riding to podiums in two straight grand tours (second at the 2016 Giro d’Italia and third at the 2016 Vuelta a España), all eyes will be on Chaves. He’s emerged as a consistent player over three weeks in grand tours, a rider capable of winning stages and limiting his losses. If Nairo Quintana doesn’t become Colombia’s first Tour de France winner, Chaves is next in line.
Expectations were high for 2017, with a Tour debut finally in the cards. Yet after making his season debut in Australia, Chaves felt some discomfort in his knee. Doctors said it was a minor tendonitis flare-up.
Not wanting to take chances, the team put Chaves on a slow, steady recovery. After training in Colombia, he returned to racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and made it through the demanding, eight-stage race, finishing 26th overall.
Normally, that would not be an ideal sign with the Tour just weeks away. For Orica-Scott, having Chaves complete the Dauphiné without any complications is victory enough.