Richard Carapaz returned home to find Ecuador had turned pink in celebration of his Giro d’Italia win. The Movistar rider was greeted by a large crowd in the capital of Quito after becoming the first Ecuadorian to win a grand tour.
Speaking in Quito, he said: “The best gift that Ecuador can give me is that when [the citizens] go on the road, they respect the cyclists.
“[With that attitude], the public will encourage new riders to take to the road.”
Carapaz is expecting to spend a number of weeks in Ecuador and will still be celebrating at home in El Carmelo when the Tour de France starts.
Team Movistar will take a trio of stars to the Tour, starting on July 6 in Brussels, but cycling’s newest grand tour star will not me amongst them. Instead, Carapaz plans to come down from the thin air at 3000 meters to race at the Vuelta a España in August.
“It’s impossible to guess about his future,” Team Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué told VeloNews. “Based on his past and present, he is on an upward trajectory.”
The 26-year-old became the first rider from his country to win a stage in the Giro d’Italia in 2018. He went on to place fourth overall behind Chris Froome (then Team Sky) in that year’s race. However, due to problems with visas, his wife could not travel to help him celebrate when the race arrived in Rome.
This year, Tania was there with their two children and Carapaz’ parents – after their first flight – in Verona. He had become the first Ecuadorian to wear the pink jersey and win a grand tour.
“Just a year ago he demonstrated that he was capable of winning a dramatic mountain stage at the Giro d’Italia. And he also revealed he was very constant and finished off last year’s Giro very strong,” Unzué said.
“This year’s Giro confirmed his consistency and efficiency across three weeks. He attacked five times in this Giro, twice to win two stages, and three more times to distance his rivals in the classification.
“He’s very good at reading the race, and knows when to attack at the right moment. So all of that together makes it obvious that he is very good at three weeks.”
Over the last week, Carapaz toasted with the Ecuadorian ambassador to Italy in Milan, and the ambassador to Spain in Madrid. He arrived home Tuesday to be greeted by a parade of pink through Ecuador’s capital city, Quito.
He admitted that the Giro’s spiral trophy -which has every winner’s name from Luigi Ganna in 1909 etched onto the gold ribbon- gets heavy when held for long periods.
Today, Wednesday, he flew from the capital to Tulcan in the northern province of Carchi. This high Andean area, on the border with Colombia, is where he was born.
Unzué laughed about the altitude, indicating that Nairo Quintana keeps one on team mate Carapaz. He said that his Colombian star, twice second in the Tour, and the 2016 Giro winner, was born at even higher elevations.
Unlike Colombia, however, Ecuador’s popular of 16.6 million counts few top level professionals amongst them. Jonathan Caicedo races for Team EF Education First and Jhonatan Narvaez is in Team Ineos.
“Richard was racing in small teams in his region, and then with some Colombian teams as a junior,” said Unzué. “At a very young age, just like Nairo, he was showing qualities that revealed he was very good on the bike.
“By the time he was 21, we saw him and we brought him to Spain to be part of our development team.”
“I have no doubt. There will be more ‘Carapacitos’ very soon. Colombia is a nation with a rich cycling history, Ecuador not so much. This will turn him into a big personality in his nation, and that will give a larger push for the development of cycling.
“It’s a nation where a lot of people live between 2000 and 3000-meters altitude, and it’s been shown that these origins are a natural advantage in this sport. We’ll see how long it takes before Ecuador emerges as a larger presence in the peloton.”
Although this year’s grand tour schedule sees Carapaz repeat 2018’s with starts at the Giro and Vuelta, it is expected he will eventually target the Tour de France.
“He’s young. He’s got 10 years in front of him now to win races, to win grand tours,” Movistar sport director Max Sciandri said.
“Anything can happen in the Giro. You start by winning the Giro, then you set yourself far ahead. The Tour is obviously dialled in a different way, with teams riding tempo and on the climbs.”
Asked if that Tour winning capacity exists in cycling’s new star, Sciandri added: “He will come around, for sure, he has the engine.”