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SANTUARIO DI CASTELMONTE, Italy (VN) – After 19 stages when it’s been impossible for any of the three leading contenders for the Giro d’Italia title to find a decisive edge on their rivals, race leader Richard Carapaz said he believes that the deadlock will be broken when they reach the final ramps of the Marmolada/Passo Fedaia on Saturday afternoon.
“Tomorrow, the last climb is so hard, the final five kilometers are going to be decisive,” said the Ineos Grenadiers leader after stage 19 produced another draw between himself, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Jai Hindley and Bahrain Victorious’s Mikel Landa.
“I don’t think that we were going to get to the finish together,” he said. “We’ll all try to go all-out for the win.”
The Ecuadorian said that his team had done all they could to apply pressure on the stage through Friuli and Slovenia that finished at the dramatic hill-top location of the Santuario di Castelmonte.
“We expended a lot of energy. We tried today again. But in the end, we were on the same level as the others,” he said, adding, “But I have a good feeling for tomorrow.”
He confessed that part of the reason for his positive outlook was the fact his family have arrived from Ecuador for the remainder of the Giro.
“It’s important to be here with my family. It’s a special moment, especially for us, the South Americans, because we spend so much time in Europe,” said the maglia rosa.
Richie Porte: ‘A significant loss’
Carapaz will go into the critical stage to the Fedaia without key mountain lieutenant Richie Porte, who was forced to abandon during the 19th stage due to illness.
“He’s a significant loss. He’s a man for the climbs and has done a great job in that role on the days up to now. We knew that he wasn’t feeling that good. He tried to hold on at the beginning of the stage, but the pace was too high and we lost him. He’s an important rider, but the team is motivated,” Carapaz insisted.
Winner of two stages when he took the Giro title in 2019, the Ineos leader said he’d like to win the Fedaia stage, but a stage win is not his principal focus.
“I’d like to win a stage of course, but winning the Giro is more important,” he stated.
Asked how he would feel if the three riders finished together once again on the Fedaia and, as a consequence, he started Sunday’s time trial in Verona with a three-second gap on Hindley, Carapaz responded: “Well, if we can’t open significant gaps tomorrow, it’s better to have these three seconds in hand than to be three seconds behind.”
Carapaz’s 20-year-old teammate Ben Tulett, who’s fully lived up to his team’s expectations that he was ready to take on the challenge of supporting a grand tour leader, explained that it had been another testing day for the team, especially due to the loss of Porte.
“It was another tough mountain finish, but we controlled it well and, in the end, it was another close finish,” said the young Briton.
“We knew of course that it was going to be more difficult without Richie, because he’s a key member of the team. It was good in the beginning of the stage that he was there to help support us all, but I think we did OK without him today,” said Tulett. “It’s going to be a really exciting stage tomorrow, the final mountain test, so we’ll see what comes from that.”
The news that Porte had abandoned didn’t reach Ineos’s Pavel Sivakov until after the finish, when he heard about the Australian’s fate as he was talking to the media.
“Hopefully he’ll be back at 100 percent tomorrow. Anyway, we had numbers in the final. But I think he will recover well and be good. He abandoned? I didn’t know that,” said Sivakov, whose current good form in the mountains will be even more vital to Carapaz on Saturday.