News
Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Carapaz growing more confident by the day

After placing fourth in the Giro last year, the Ecuadorian has become a hot favorite to take the maglia rosa in 2019.

COMO, Italy (VN) — Movistar’s Richard Carapaz is growing more confident by the day as the Ecuadorian rides into the final week of the Giro d’Italia with momentum and the pink jersey on his back.

A day after exploding the race and snatching away the maglia rosa, a calculating Carapaz followed the attacking Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) late in Sunday’s stage. With rival Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) struggling with a bike change and then crashing behind, Carapaz saw his gap grow from a slender seven seconds to nearly a minute at 47 seconds.

“We knew it would be a hard stage today and I tried to be attentive,” Carapaz said. “Tomorrow’s rest day comes at a good time ahead of what lies in front of us. This Giro is far from over.”

Carapaz’s sudden climb into the pink jersey has come as a surprise to some. Though he was fourth overall last year, he did not seem to be a rider that Roglic or Nibali had on their radar.

As the two favorites played mind games and paced off each other, Carapaz barnstormed into the opening in Saturday’s raid that delivered his second stage win in this Giro and Ecuador’s first pink jersey.

Tongues are wagging that Roglic and Nibali made a big mistake by letting Carapaz ride away, but Carapaz said there were no gifts Saturday.

“There were no coincidences yesterday,” Carapaz said. “I opened a good gap, and I had good legs, and that’s the difference. People can say what they want.”

Monday’s rest day gives Carapaz and Movistar a chance to regroup. Mikel Landa remains a factor and the team will be holding the Spanish attacker in reserve if Carapaz stutters. Carapaz downplayed any suggestion that there could be a rift inside the team. Some have suggested that Landa is miffed that it was Carapaz, not him, who took the initiative Saturday.

“[Landa] has had a big career and an impressive palmares. I really admire him, and we get along well. We are more than teammates, we are friends,” Carapaz said.

“We’ll see who will win in the end,” he continued. “It could be me or Roglic, or Nibali, or maybe someone else. There is still a lot of kilometers to race.”

What’s becoming clear is that someone will have to do something extraordinary to take the jersey off his back. Carapaz promises to fight to the end.