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Analysis: EF Education-EasyPost trades WorldTour scramble for grand tour challenge in 2023

Arrival of Richard Carapaz has potential to transform the team after sicknesses and the relegation battle overshadowed a 2022 short of success.

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EF Education-EasyPost likes to do things a little different.

After a rollercoaster 2022 short on wins, riddled with sickness, and overshadowed by a scramble for WorldTour survival, the U.S.-based team will want to see the coming year play out a little different, too.

And fortunately for Jonathan Vaughters and his “disruptive” pink-clad crew, the pieces are in place to rip up this year’s script.

The newly signed Richard Carapaz brings new ambition and direction. Team talisman Rigoberto Urán is still around and showing hints of his former best. Esteban Chaves is committed to stay. And U.S. ace Nielson Powless continues to impress on all terrain, all year long.

Also read:

After ending this season with a mojo-boosting one-two at Japan Cup, EF Education-EasyPost will roll into 2023 with good vibes on the team bus and a WorldTour license in the glove box.

2022: Spring sicknesses, summer smiles

Powless was seconds from wearing the yellow jersey and in the frame all year. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Marquee results 2022:

  • UAE Tour: Stage win (Bissegger)
  • Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge: 1st (Guerreiro)
  • Tour de France: Stage win (Cort)
  • Vuelta a España: Stage win (Urán)
  • Japan Cup: 1st (Powless)

“By mid-season, we were staring relegation in the face.”

Vaughters didn’t sugarcoat things when he wrote about his team’s season and the relegation system for VeloNews.

This year saw EF Education-EasyPost plunged deep into the battle for WorldTour survival. A swathe of sicknesses through spring saw the team score zero UCI points in two months and seemingly incapable of penetrating the winner’s circle.

Then come summer, Magnus Cort lit up the Tour de France Grand Départ and blazed to a stage win, Urán wound back the clock to top a grand tour podium for the first time in five years, and Powless punched to season-ending victory in Japan.

Also read: Vaughters: How we ended up in the relegation fight

The year-ending comeback took the taint off a season that saw just nine victories in total – the second-lowest tally in the WorldTour.

It was the team’s most barren season since 2018 and its second year in a row without any GC victories.

“We all know how close the precipice was — we’ve been staring off the edge of it for months,” Vaughters said. “I’m just lucky I fell into a few clotheslines on the way down.”

Vaughters fell on one very important clothesline last summer — and it originated in Ecuador.

2023: Can Carapaz change the game?

NAVACERRADA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 10: Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers - Polka Dot Mountain Jersey celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 77th Tour of Spain 2022, Stage 20 a 181km stage from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada 1851m / #LaVuelta22 / #WorldTour / on September 10, 2022 in Puerto de Navacerrada, Spain. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Carapaz blasted to three stage wins and the KoM jersey at the 2022 Vuelta. (Photo: Getty Images)

Marquee transfers for 2023:

  • In: Richard Carapaz, Andrey Amador, Mikkel Honoré, Stefan de Bod
  • Out: Ruben Guerreiro (to Movistar), Michael Valgren (to EF devo team), Sebastian Langeveld (retired), Lachlan Morton (full-time alternative program), Alex Howes (full-time alternative program)

One rider doesn’t define a team, but one rider can help that squad to change the game.

Carapaz brings EF Education-EasyPost its first grand tour winner since Ryder Hesjedal and a whole new sense of direction.

With Urán choosing to postpone retirement, Carapaz’s wingman Andrey Amador among a select but strong set of new signings, and the help of leading climbers like Chaves, Powless, Hugh Carthy and Alberto Bettiol, Carapaz and the EF team can boot the door down and reenter the grand tour arena.

It’s been nearly four years since Carapaz won the Giro d’Italia, but the now 29-year-old has gone on to win the Olympic road race, hit the podium in all three grand tours, and pivot to a stage-winning mountain blitz at the recent Vuelta a España.

He’s one of the few that could put Tadej Pogačar, Remco Evenepoel, and Jonas Vingegaard to the test in years to come.

“This is a team with a lot of ambition and many things they want to achieve,” Carapaz said. “I’m a piece that can fit into the team really well. I’m motivated and was looking for a team with the same objectives as me.

“I have the focus and want to try to win the Tour de France and I think that’s something we can achieve here together. The team wants to reach for its goals and that’s something really valuable to me.”

With a contract through 2025, Carapaz could start a whole new chapter for his North American team.

Going better than nine

Urán scored headline victory for the team at the Vuelta. (Photo: David Pintens/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Vaughters is committed to the team’s attacking ethos and hinted he might not necessarily go all-in on three-week GC in 2023. But if he wants to, he’s got the backing crew to keep Carapaz in podium contention for the climber-friendly Tour de France or Vuelta a España.

And elsewhere, EF Education-EasyPost has the potential to far better its nine-victory haul from 2022.

This year, Cort lost time to COVID, and Bettiol was on the comeback from chronic ulcerative colitis. Powless was seconds from wearing the Tour de France’s yellow jersey and within a wheel of winning big, all year long. Mid-season signing Andrea Piccolo was only picking up pace but still hitting podiums.

Marquee classics and stage race podiums are all within reach of a deceptively deep and multifaceted roster.

After ending 2022 on a high with Powless’ Japan Cup coup and a significant transfer scoop, EF Education-EasyPost should go into 2023 with the wind at its sails.