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Neilson Powless: Carapaz joining EF Education ‘will help me raise my level even higher’

Californian sensation not worried about losing his own opportunities when Richard Carapaz joins EF Education-EasyPost.

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Neilson Powless plans to cling on to some Ecuadorian coattails when Richard Carapaz joins EF Education-EasyPost next season.

“I think having a strong rider like Carapaz in the team is just going to help me raise my level even higher, whether it’s in support or co-leadership,” Powless told VeloNews.

Powless rides into 2023 hot off the back of a season where the stats don’t tell the whole story.

The Californian firecracker was 13 seconds from wearing the Tour de France yellow jersey, was inches from the final podium at the WorldTour-level Tour de Suisse, and narrowly missed marquee stage victories all through the year.

Victory at the Japan Cup earlier this month brought Powless a curtain-closing win after a year of close calls.

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Powless hopes the arrival of Olympic and grand tour champion Carapaz at EF will add some South American sparkle to his still-young palmarès.

“Supporting guys who have a chance at a really big result can really help to push somebody to another level, and I’m hoping that’s going to happen to me,” Powless said in a recent telephone call.

“Like, if I need to support Richard, I hope that my level gets raised that much higher so that I can do an even better job for him. Or even potentially help myself out for the future in my own career.”

Carapaz will help ‘raise the level of the team overall’

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)

Powless has scaled the hierarchy at EF Education-EasyPost in recent seasons.

Consistently close in the biggest races of the year – including Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour de France, and road worlds – the 26-year-old brought his team crucial UCI points and kept EF pink in the media picture.

Jonathan Vaughters’ eye-grabbing signing of South American superstar Carapaz through 2025 should help pump the team even further forward in the pro peloton.

“It’s really motivating to have Carapaz coming in,” Powless said. “He’s capable of winning a grand tour, which is rare to have in a team. And it’s really motivating to me too because the more strong riders you have on a team, the more opportunities you’ll have for results. It helps raise the level of the team as a whole.”

Powless is confident the presence of “Captain Carapaz” won’t impact his own opportunity as Vaughters vows to retain the team’s stage-hunting ethos through the future.

“If I can help Richard win big races then that’s just going to be more fun for me. Or if it’s a one-day race where there are multiple guys going for the win then that helps their chances because they have more cards to play,” Powless said.

“I think it’s just really going to raise the level of the team overall.”

‘Right now, I just want to stick to what I know that I’m good at – one-day races and one-week races’

Powless doesn’t any grand tour GC ambition just yet. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Powless found himself in what he described as “limbo” in the front-half of the Tour de France this summer.

A team tactical tangle on the Roubaix cobblestones left him inches away from the yellow jersey and short of space to hunt for breakaway wins.

Powless hung tough in an extra-competitive GC field to finish a career-best 12th overall in Paris – but a more direct dive into grand tour classification racing isn’t on his agenda for the near future.

“It would be nice to keep chasing after GC in one-week races next year. But, for grand tours, I think that’s probably going to have to wait a little bit longer,” he told VeloNews.

Also read: America’s Tour surprise Powless: ‘I’ll just keep this GC ball rolling’

“I don’t think I’m going to be going into the Tour or any grand tour with the ambition of winning it, at least just yet. I think being able to just win a WorldTour week-long race is the first step in that. So until I do that, I think it’s too early to make a call of like, ‘yeah, I want to go for GC and a grand tour.’

“Right now, I just want to stick to what I know that I’m good at, which is one-day races and, and one-week stage races.”

Powless finished top-10 in Liège-Bastogne-Liège this spring and packs victory at the hilly Donostia San Sebastián and Japan Cup into his palmarès.

The coming season will see the 26-year-old going all-in for the Ardennes in the spring before a hopeful return to the Tour.

And if Carapaz is there too, all the better.

“I would hope to go to the Tour again,” Powless said. “It’s always a major goal of mine to be on the start line at the Tour de France fit and ready to chase a result, or possibly help Richard get on the podium.”