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Carapaz speaks of Movistar leadership tension: ‘It is like having a knife behind you’

Ecuadorian reveals last year's fractious team dynamics extended beyond battles between Landa, Quintana and Valverde.

Richard Carapaz has revealed that his final season with Movistar was not a happy one.

The Ecuadorian, now riding with Team Ineos, left the Spanish outfit at the end of 2019 having won the Giro d’Italia that spring. In May last year, Carapaz had said “the ambiance within the team is phenomenal” as he raced toward his first grand tour victory on the coattails of a tactical masterclass from Movistar. However, a year down the line, it appears it may not have been so straightforward.

Carapaz took the Giro’s pink jersey after Movistar’s named leader, Mikel Landa, ceded his captaincy role mid-way through the race and had to settle for playing domestique du luxe for the South American while also sniping for stage wins. Though the team attempted to maneuver Landa onto the final podium, he finished just eight seconds shy, ending up fourth overall.

“Living those circumstances is very difficult,” Carapaz said of the dynamic in the team bus during the race. “You don’t know if tomorrow is going to be your turn, or if the team is not going to wait for you because the leader is someone else.”

“It is like having a knife behind you and you don’t know when it will fall, if it is today or tomorrow,” he continued. “There were situations in the race that you did not know who was shooting for whom.”

Movistar has received a mixture of mockery and criticism at the tactics employed at last year’s Tour, a race that saw Landa, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde seemingly racing for themselves and left scrapping for lower-tier GC positions as leadership tensions fizzled.

Landa and Quintana joined Carapaz in Movistar’s leadership hemorrhage at the end of 2019. Landa and Quintana have both acknowledged that their moves to Bahrain-McLaren and Arkea-Samsic respectively were motivated by the quest for sole leadership of a team. By moving to Ineos, a team already boasting three Tour de France champions, Carapaz had different intentions.

When speaking to Marca Tuesday, the 26-year-old hinted at dissatisfaction at being left to fight for the scraps at Movistar. For example, after proving himself the better of Landa to earn team captaincy at the Giro, Carapaz had to settle for co-leadership at last summer’s Vuelta a EspaƱa alongside Valverde and Landa.

Carapaz and Landa at last year’s Giro. Wonder what they were saying? Photo: Getty Images

While Carapaz may be left to pick the captaincy slots left after Ineos teammates Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Egan Bernal have picked off the prize races, the Ecuadorian cited racing with a squad willing to mold to his needs and commit to him as being a key motivation behind the transfer.

“I have made the right change [moving to Ineos],” he said. “I have no doubt what it would have been like at Movistar if I had remained as leader. It was the right moment and I do not regret anything… I don’t owe them anything. I don’t have the sadness or the sadness of having left.”

“Ineos said to me: Richard, we are going to adapt to you, it is not you who have to adapt to us. At Movistar, I had not had the opportunity for a group to adapt to me that I didn’t have to adapt. ”

Carapaz has recently confirmed he will return to the Giro this October to defend his title, and this time, he will be leading a team designed around him as the designated leader.

“Last year I went to the Giro almost hidden, but this year as the sole leader of Ineos, with the support of the entire team, it is our great ambition to repeat the victory of 2019,” he said.

Reports emerging last week suggest Froome may be making a move from Ineos in the near future, a transfer that could play to the Carapaz’s advantage as he steps one rung up the leadership ladder. With Froome possibly on the out and 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas now 33 years old, Carapaz stated that he and fellow South American star Bernal were the future of the team he described as being “like NASA.”

“I have a lot of admiration for Chris Froome, and I respect him a lot. I have learned a lot from him,” Carapaz said. “Egan and I are the start of a new generation to continue with spectacular triumphs.”