Vuelta a Espana

Richard Carapaz takes 10 seconds and upward momentum into rest day of Vuelta a España

The Ineos Grenadiers leader is likely to lose his red jersey to Primož Roglič in the time trial Tuesday, but now takes the mental advantage after seeing his rival falter on the Angliru.

Just two days after losing his lead of the Vuelta a España, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) is back in the red jersey after a tenacious ride through the Asturian mountains Sunday.

The Ecuadorian now holds a narrow 10 second lead over archrival Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the overall classification. While the approaching time trial to Mirador de Ézaro is likely to see Carapaz booted from the red jersey again by Roglič, the Ineos captain gained a vital psychological gain over his Slovenian foe on the savage slopes of the Angliru on stage 12.

“I’m very happy to wear the jersey again,” Carapaz after riding to fourth atop the Angliru. “It’s a good thing for me, for the team, and for everything we’ve been doing.”

Though Carapaz praised his team after the stage, his ride Sunday was largely a one-man effort. Ineos Grenadiers is down to six riders after the exit of Michal Golas and Brandon Rivera early in the race and has largely been relying on Andrey Amador to protect their leader against the collective strength of Jumbo Visma in the high mountains.

Amador crashed out of the lead bunch mid-way through the stage Sunday, leaving just Chris Froome remaining with Carapaz. The grand tour veteran took a big pull for his teammate through the penultimate climb of the stage before exploding out of the back.

From there on, Carapaz was flying solo as Robert Gesink, Jonas Vingegaard, and finally Sepp Kuss loaned their wheel to Roglič on the Angliru summit finish.

“This [Angliru] climb made a natural selection,” Carapaz said. “I remembered it from 2017 but it’s been incredible.”

Though Carapaz looked to be swinging through the middle of the wall-like mountain as Jumbo-Visma motored at the front, the Ecuadorian rallied after the steepest 20+ percent gradients, hauling himself back into contention and onto the wheels of Enric Mas and Aleksandr Vlasov as they chased after stage-winner Hugh Carthy.

“I tried in the end, Mas and Carthy also went for it and I continued with my pace and that gave me a 10-second advantage,” Carapaz said. “That’s great for us, we’re going towards the time trial with the idea to give our best and defend the leadership.”

Roglič admitted Sunday night that his legs let him down and that it was left to superdomestique Sepp Kuss to salvage the day.

“Sepp could have gone for the win today, but it was great that he stayed with me to support me,” Roglič said. “I think Sepp could have won today, but needed to stay with me to help me.”

While Carapaz is more than likely set to lose his narrow 10-second lead to Roglič on Tuesday’s individual test, the Angliru revealed the slightest of gaps in the Slovenian’s armor. The Jumbo-Visma leader had the numbers to support him, but not the watts to deliver on the teamwork, and he valiantly battled to fifth on the stage, 10 seconds behind Carapaz.

Roglič has beaten Carapaz every time they have faced-off against the clock, and could take over one minute on Tuesday’s time trial. Nonetheless, with memories of Roglič’s late crumble out of the pink jersey before Carapaz went on to win the 2019 Giro d’Italia front of mind, the Ecuadorian’s ears will be ringing with stage-winner Carthy’s post-race interview Sunday night.

“A close race going into the time trial, everything’s to play for.”