Svein Tuft and his Orica-GreenEdge teammates are fresh off a successful three weeks of racing with Esteban Chaves on the podium at the 99th edition of the Giro d’Italia. The second place finish gives the Australia WorldTour outfit its first ever grand tour podium finish and a result that confirms the teams shift to contenders in the general classification.
“We had ambitions for a top-ten finish with Esteban, so the day he took the pink jersey so late in the race is one I will never forget,” said Tuft who himself wore the pink jersey after Stage 1 of the Giro in 2014.
As the race headed for two tough stages in the Alps before the finale in Turin, Chaves spent the night before Stage 18 making signs for all his teammates. The 26-year-old is a fan favourite, especially with Colombians who flock to the team bus at races. The Colombian has a bright smile and a good attitude receiving numerous signs from his adoring fans. To acknowledge the work his teammates do day in and day out over the course of a three-week grand tour, Chaves’s endearing gesture was well received by his teammates.
“Chaves is an incredible person before we even mention his talent as a bike rider. If you told me we would be fighting to win the overall win three weeks ago I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Tuft. “One night when I visited him in his room he was working hard at his desk drawing posters for each one of us. Every poster had the special characteristics of the guys.”
Tuft, who is affectionately called Grizzly by his teammates, received a poster which celebrated the Langley, B.C.’s natives Canadian heritage. “North”, “bear”, “cold” and of course “Canada” were the words Chaves chose for Tuft.
“Can you imagine any other grand tour GC leader doing that?” said Tuft highlighting the qualities that set Chaves apart from the peloton’s other sometimes more reserved GC riders.
“When you have a GC contender you must switch on from kilometer zero,” said Tuft. Chaves was set up for contention in the overall standings with an impressive victory on Stage 14, the Giro’s queen stage. On Stage 19, he took the leader’s pink jersey as Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) crashed on the descent of the Coll dell’Agnello and was unable to retain the race lead.
“Stage 20 was always going to be a big day,” said Tuft. Nibali had narrowed the gap to 44-seconds on Stage 19. “The whole team turned themselves inside out as did Esteban,” explained Tuft. “It wasn’t his day and we can’t be disappointed to lose the jersey to one of the best GC riders of this era. We were all a little down after the stage.”
With a second place GC finish and a strong effort over the three weeks Tuft added, “At the same time we were excited for the future and things to come. Esteban has made it clear he is a man for the grand tours and the team will rise with him.”
Chaves himself kept things in perspective after the conclusion of the race, “I have learnt that dreams can come true,” said Chaves still smiling. “If you keep working and never give up then your dreams can come true. That is what myself and Orica-GreenEdge are going to continue doing.”