Would you like to have cake with Esteban Chavez? Yes. We would. So we did. The smiling Colombian talked about his plans, his team, and his adopted home.
Words - James raison
Does Esteban think he can win the Tour Down Under?
“Why not?” he smiles.
On the eve of his 27th birthday, Esteban is clearly relaxed ahead of his first road race on Australian soil. His Orica Scott team is loaded with talent in 2017. Their roster includes four time overall winner Simon Gerrans, multiple stage winning sprint sensation Caleb Ewan, super domestique Daryl Impey, local expert Damian Howson, and deceptively young journeyman Luke Durbridge.
The Tour Down Under “is a really big objective to collect this one for the team.” With so much talent, it is the only acceptable outcome for Orica Scott. The Australian Summer is crucial for the team and they want to take every victory and UCI point they can before heading back to the tough Spring Classics.
The Orica Scott outfit clearly means a lot to Esteban. It’s a team that punches well above its weight, operating on a budget that’s well below some of the leviathans of the sport. There’s something special about the team, he explains:
“I think 70 or 80% of the riders want to come here to this team. This team is different. We race with a lot of passion and have a really good atmosphere.”
Victory is going to be tough for Orica Scott with the exceptional cycling talent converging on Australia this January. He’ll be facing hot competition from Richie Porte (BMC), Michael Woods (Cannondale Drapac), Jay McCarthy (Bora Hansgrohe), and his countrymen Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) and Sergio Henao (SKY).
The Colombians are looking particularly strong:
“We have 5 Colombians here. I grew up with Henao and Pantano in the same team. For sure Henao is in really good shape. He’s one guy who trains super well. He’s hungry all the time. He’s a fighter. Pantano looks good, very skinny as well.”
That last comment draws laughter from the assembled media. Chavez’s expansive cake, a pile of lammingtons, is almost as big as he is. Certainly heavier.
We will have to wait until Stage 2 on Wednesday. The uphill finish will likely sort the contenders for the race and end the hopes of a few.
I’ll certainly be cheering for the smiley Colombian, certainly one of the most likeable riders in the pro peloton.