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Few forecast that the Ecuadorian would limit his losses against TT powerhouse Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to under one minute, however. Carapaz rode the TT of his life on the 33.7km test to Mirador de Ézaro on Tuesday to minimize the damage Roglič inflicted on his GC bid, taking seventh on the stage and finishing the day in second place, just 39 seconds down on the race-leading Slovenian.
Having been playing tug-o-war over the red jersey with Roglič through the past two weeks, Carapaz is confident the to-and-fro isn’t over yet.
“It was a hard crono but we’re pretty happy with the result,” Carapaz said after the stage. “We came here hoping to win this Vuelta, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We prepared well for this Vuelta, and we’re right there in the mix.”
With Carapaz and archrival Roglič separated by just 10 seconds after the Angliru dust-up Sunday, the Mirador de Ézaro time trial was marked as a crucial day in the GC battle.
Tuesday’s time trial was far from straightforward, with a windy, rolling opening 32 kilometers concluded by an ugly finish on a concreted 1.8km wall that pitched up to 15+ percent gradient. Having scouted the stage in the rain on Monday’s rest day, Carapaz delivered on race-day, holding his own through the lumpy start before climbing strongly on the gnarly final hill.
“It was a hard TT. It wasn’t as flat as it looked, and that favored us,” he said.
With three transitional stages and a summit finish still remaining at this year’s Vuelta, Carapaz is still very much in contention. The Ecuadorian however now also has EF Pro Cycling’s Hugh Carthy to worry about, with the Brit breathing down his neck after a standout ride Tuesday, now just 12 seconds back.
The trio of stages from Wednesday through Friday are likely to be won from a breakaway or a sprint, though the endlessly rolling terrain through western Spain could see surprises. Carapaz could be eyeing an opportunity beyond the above-category summit finish to La Covatilla on Saturday.
“The Vuelta is still open, I still have my chances,” he said. “There are still some hard stages coming up and I will try to move up.”
Roglič has now held the red jersey on three separate occasions at this Vuelta. Carapaz has had two spells in La Roja. Carapaz will be looking to make it three – three before the race makes Madrid.