Stage 3 was really hard due to the heat and especially the mountain top finishing climb.
Chaves and Poels came into the last few hundred meters together and Poels’ late attack had put him in the driving seat with the Colombian desperately hanging on.
However disaster struck for Poels as he came down on the last corner before the line.
By the time the Team Sky rider made it to his feet Fabio Aru (Astana) has taken second with Poels forced to settle for third. Chaves now leads Aru by 16 seconds on GC with Poels third at 27 seconds.
The stage, with the only mountain-top finish of the race, had seen Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling) and Rafaâ Chtioui (Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team) skip away in the early stages and build up a lead that approached three minutes.
However, with the stage and the overall set to be decided, the GC contenders were never going to allow such a move to threaten their chances. The final climb, 11km in length and with pitches of around 10 per cent, saw Astana reel in the break with Chtioui the last rider to be caught.
The Kazak team had been hoping to set-up either Vincenzo Nibali or Aru for the stage win but their pace setting was disrupted by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who attacked with just under 8 kilometres remaining. The Spaniard was quickly caught but the damage his move inflicted on the on peloton was significant, although Astana were able to re-group and had three men in contention as the peloton raced towards the final five kilometres.
Nibali was the next rider to attack and he briefly sauntered clear with Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx – Quick-Step) for company. This brought Team Sky into play as they had two men left in the chasing group.
Aru looked dangerous but it was Chaves who took the race by the scruff of the neck with an attack that cut through the Nibali– Brambilla tandem.
The Italian national road champion cracked almost as soon as he latched onto the Colombian’s wheel and it looked as though the peloton were racing for second place as the Orica rider built up a 20-second lead.
However Poels is never a rider to write off in these situations as he showed last month in the Tour Britain. He toiled with Aru before going clear and with just under 1,000 meters to go caught Chaves.
It was the Dutchman who looked the strongest and he attacked next with Chaves trying to keep pace. However the final corner saw the Team Sky climber come down, and with that gift Chaves the win and the leader’s jersey.
A muted celebration from Chaves said it all but he will be the overall winner of the race, assuming he makes it through the final criterium stage on Sunday.
1) Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) 3h 28′ 04″
2) Fabio Aru (Astana) +12″
3) Wout Poels (Sky) +21″
4) Diego Ulissi (Lampre) +31″
5) Janez Brajkovic (UnitedHealthcare) +31″
6) Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) +1’ 19″
7) Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1’ 19″
8) Leopold König (Sky) +1’ 19″
9) Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +1’ 19″
10) Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) +1’ 30″
1) Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) 10h 41′ 12″
2) Fabio Aru (Astana) +16″
3) Wout Poels (Sky) +27″
4) Janez Brajkovic (UnitedHealthcare) +41″
5) Diego Ulissi (Lampre) +41″
6) Leopold König (Team Sky) +1′ 29″
7) Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1′ 29″
8) Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +1′ 29″
9) Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) +1’29″
10) Patrick Konrad (Bora-Argon 18) +1′ 40″