We met lots of cyclists who were racing in Italy the 3 weeks of the Giro. We missed some–one of my favorite riders Marcel Kittel of Etixx-Quickstep, dropped out before Tuscany. Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo dropped out after the time trial. So I was ripe to add riders to our favorites list.
It was easy to like Esteban Chaves with Orica-Greenedge. He is an energetic and charismatic young climber from Columbia. His smile is 1,000 watts and his teammates clearly like him. We met him on a rest day and he was relaxed and happy to be on the Giro. He is 29 years old but has the boyish looks and energy of a teenager. I instantly became a fan.
There did not seem to be too much team pressure on Chaves to win. Sometimes a team with a leader in the top 5 closes down and you can feel the tension of expectations. This team still felt like they were mostly having fun. This is probably an advantage on a 3-week bike race when your chances depend on surviving crashes and the daily grind until you can get to the final mountain stages when the real race begins.
In the last few days of the Giro the competition did get real. Chaves took the overall lead on stage 19. The maglia rosa (pink jersey) Steven Kruijswijk dropped in the rankings after a weird crash into a snowbank during a momentary loss of concentration.
The Sicilian Shark Vincenzo Nibali won the stage and closed the gap taking second overall. There was one more mountain stage before the final (largely ceremonial) last stage. Nibali attacked to win the 20th stage with Chaves on the podium in second.
If Orica-Greenedge was disappointed, it is difficult to tell from this loving tribute on Backstage Pass. Thanks Dan Jones for the terrific use of Steve Jobs’ speech.