After cold and wind had affected the riders in the early days, a shining sun welcomed the Tour Mediterraneen on the most expected and anticipated climb of the traditional stage race: the Mont Faron. It was also the first real race test for Team Colombia’s climbers, and youngster Esteban Chaves lived up tothe responsibility. The 23-year-old rider from Bogotà managed himself well on the rough tarmac of the 4,5 km climb, finishing 15th behind stage winner Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-LaMondiale).
The Frenchman was part of a four-man group that broke away from the bunch on Mont Faron’s early slopes, and dug deep to solo to the top, putting a 30 seconds gap between him and runner-up Francesco Reda (Androni Giocattoli). Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Blanco) was third to the line. Belgian Maxime Monfort (Radioshack) is the new race leader.
Juan Esteban Arango was the first Team Colombia man to show up on the 146 km route from Rousset to Toulon – Mt. Faron, working his way into a 8-man day’s breakaway. 26-year-old pistard Arango, who hit the ground early in Wednesday’s stage 1, remained clear to the feet of Col du Garda, a short climb placed at 12 km to go, after the break had reached a 3.30 maximum advantage.
Then it was Esteban Chaves’ time: Chavito delivered a good performance and an encouraging placement, even though the latter could have been even better, as General Manager Claudio Corti explained: “With 200 metres to go he was very close to the top 10, but a group of 6-7 riders got back on him at the very last. Nevertheless, that can’t affect a good performance, that generally lived up to our expectations, as this is the very first race of the season. I also liked Arango’s performance, as he showed grit and courage in his first European race.”
“Mont Faron is a very sharp climb, suited to explosive riders – Esteban Chaves commented afterwards – I didn’t know it, and even if it’s not very long, it is still really tough. I had good feelings today: I am missing some race rhythm, but we are just at the beginning of a long path to get to the Giro d’Italia at our best.”
Tomorrow, the French stage race comes to a close with the final stage, Bandol-Grasse: 192 km of undulated route, featuring Tannerons’ climb and and uphill finish to wrap up 2013 Tour Med.
Photo: Esteban Chaves in action on the Mont Faron