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Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) came through his first day in the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia with his seven second lead over Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) intact but the 2019 race winner had to survive an early scare when he crashed during the opening hours of the stage.
Carapaz hit the deck alongside a number of other riders on stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia but was quickly back on his bike and chasing back to the main peloton after a frantic opener saw a huge break finally go roughly mid-way through the stage.
The Ecuadorian rider had his Ineos Grenadiers team on the front for the majority of the stage and, while Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) soloed to a stage 15 win in Conge, the British squad controlled the GC contenders all the way up the 22.4km climb to the finish.
“It was a crazy stage. At the beginning everyone wanted to go in the breakaway, and the pace was very high until the first climb but the team started to ride at the front of the peloton but we always wanted to keep the break close to us,” Carapaz said after his first day in the maglia rosa since 2019.
Those traveling in the Ineos Grenadiers team car would have had their hearts in their mouths when race radio crackled through with news of Carapaz’s crash but the climber brushed off the impact of the fall.
“”I had a small crash at the beginning of my first day in the maglia rosa but with no consequence at all. I just had to change bikes. Then it went smoothly. The scenario of the race was pretty good. The first part was hard. Then we had it under control.”
Carapaz moved into the maglia rosa after a breathtakingly exciting stage to Turin on Saturday. Bora-Hansgrohe blew the race apart with around 80km to go and isolated Carapaz from the rest of his teammates. The 28-year-old attacked with around 28km to go but was brought back before eventually finishing third on the stage.
“Yesterday was a complicated stage, and there was a very difficult downhill but at the end the result was good. Yesterday Bora attacked early and tried to surprise us. It was more like a classic race than a GC race. Maybe people were tired today so that’s why it was different,” he said when asked about the relative calm in the GC group despite three long climbs peppering the stage 15 profile.
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 22, 2022
Carapaz heads into the third and final rest-day with a slender lead but he is well aware that the seven seconds that separate him from Hindley could mean little given the tough mountains that are still to come. The Giro, as per usual, is back-ended with mountain stages in the final week and seconds could expand to minutes on just one single climb.
During his stage 15 press conference Carapaz was asked to respond to a quote from Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) after the Spaniard claimed that the Giro only really starts on Tuesday with stage 16.
“Actually the Giro started two weeks ago and you will see that this is a factor in the last week,” Carapaz said, perhaps to reinforce the fact that he has already put 59 seconds between himself and Landa.
“Of course the last climbs will be decisive and we’ll try and defend and keep the jersey,” he added.
The idea that Carapaz would sit back in the final week is unrealistic. If he is strong enough to attack he will. It’s his nature. It’s his DNA. More specifically, he will need to extend his time gap on Hindley going into the final time trial. Carapaz, a rider who lost a Vuelta a España due to bonus seconds, will take everything he can in the final week.
“There are some very hard stages and I know some of the mountains that we’ll race. I’ll try and defend the maglia rosa. The plan is always to stay in front and taking the maglia rosa was a big motivation for the whole team. It’s always better to defend than to attack. We already have a few seconds and it’s a good advantage, especially when you consider the last time trial stage.”