The Vuelta a Espana concluded this evening with ORICA-BikeExchange walking away with an impressive four stage wins and third overall with Esteban Chaves.
Dane Magnus Cort put the icing on the cake for the Australian outfit by claiming the final stage sprint in Madrid, giving the 23-year-old his second stage victory in what was his debut Grand Tour.
Chaves’ bold, long-range attack on yesterday’s penultimate stage saw the 26-year-old return to third position overall after he lost it in the individual time trial to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) the day prior.
It’s the second Grand Tour podium this season for Chaves and the Australian outfit, following his second place at the Giro d’Italia in May. Briton Simon Yates also finished sixth overall to give ORICA-BikeExchange two riders in the top ten.
“The objective this year for me and the team was to try to do two big tours strongly on the general classification and I think we did it,” Chaves said after the podium.
“Also for the team, this is a really important one because we won four stages and had two riders in the top ten.”
When asked if he can take the final step on the podium, Chaves greeted the question with his famous optimism.
“Why not, all is possible,” he said. “Things arrive when it’s time. This year it’s not my time, maybe next year, maybe in two years or maybe in three, you never know.”
“The most important thing is that you keep trying, you keep believing and continue to work and it will happen.”
On speaking about the three weeks of racing, sport director Neil Stephens was full of praise for the entire nine-rider team.
“Two riders in the top ten, a rider on the podium, four stage wins – all on varying terrain and with young riders. It just shows the promise and belief we have in this team,” Stephens said.
“There were obviously the race winners in Movistar but we were one of the major players and we did a fantastic job.
“We took four stages but there were an additional two or three stages that we really animated the race and put everything on the line. These were critical days for the GC and the team executed every piece of the plan to perfection on these days.”
Cort’s success on stage 18 and tonight’s final stage was joined by victories from Yates (stage six) and Belgian Jens Keukeleire (stage 12) – each rider’s first taste of success at a Grand Tour.
“This is unbelievable,” Cort said. “This is my first Grand Tour. It was incredible to get one stage but to get this one in Madrid too is amazing.”
“Plus we had two other stage wins, a podium and two in the top ten overall. It’s been an amazing month with this group.”
How it happened:
The peloton rolled out of Las Rozas bound for Madrid for the 21st and final day of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana.
After the traditional celebration for overall winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar), the racing began in earnest as the bunch hit Madrid for the fast and technical circuit.
Four riders formed the breakaway of the day, but they never threatened a bunch sprint finale.
After being positioned by teammate Keukeleire, Cort was too strong and took the final honours.