Richard Carapaz: ‘My transfer to EF didn’t impact’ tactics at Vuelta a España

Ecuadorian attacks to victory to heal GC disappointment in Vuelta a España.

Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images

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ESTEPONA, Spain (VN) — Richard Carapaz erased GC disappointment at the Vuelta a España with an emphatic stage victory Thursday at Peñas Blancas.

The Ineos Grenadiers climber jumped off the wheel of Wilco Keldermann (Bora Hansgrohe) and gapped King of the Mountain leader Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in the closing kilometers on the first-category summit finale.

“I’m very happy to be able to pull off this win. I came here with some other objectives, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Carapaz said. “We changed the chip and we made the plan to try to win a stage. We went day by day, and waited for the right opportunity.”

Also read: Vuelta a España stage 12: Richard Carapaz wins on Peñas Blancas, Remco Evenepoel survives crash scare

The victory comes as a salve for Ineos Grenadiers, which lost Pavel Sivakov to a COVID-19 infection Wednesday while poised in the top-10.

After giving up on GC across northern Spain, Carapaz was already chasing the moves. Nothing stuck until a big group pulled clear early Thursday in the long stage along Spain’s Costa del Sol.

“It was important to be there in the breakaway today, because we knew it would be a good chance to win,” Carapaz said.

“Today I was there in the front and I could take advantage of the situation. There were a lot of teams there fighting, and I had to be patient to wait until the last part of the climb.”

Carapaz, who is slated to move to EF Education-EasyPost for 2023, seemed intent on erasing earlier disappointment from this Vuelta.

“We announced the change of team before the start of the Vuelta, but it didn’t impact at all how I confronted the race,” Carapaz said. “It’s true I came here with the intention of riding in the GC, but the legs didn’t respond the way I had hoped.

“It’s very important to have won this stage, both for me and for the team.”

Carapaz: ‘The legs didn’t respond the way I wanted’

Carapaz drops Keldermann to surge to victory. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The Olympic road champion came in as one of the pre-race favorites, but could not follow the early accelerations in northern Spain.

Carapaz revealed that he crashed during training in Ecuador before traveling to Europe for the Vuelta.

“I crashed at home and I didn’t feel my best,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling great in Holland, and when we got to Spain, it was straight into the mountains, and I wasn’t good enough.”

On Thursday, he fought his way into the day’s big move of 32 riders, and patiently waited to make his move. The victory was his first stage victory in the Vuelta.

“I had hoped to go better in the GC, but I just couldn’t stay with the best on the key climbs,” Carapaz said. “We just had to keep fighting, and we have other riders to support for the team. The team kept backing me, and we had to look at other chances.”

Carapaz bounced up on GC to 16th overall at 11:37 back, but he isn’t thinking about anything more than winning more stages.

“We’ll see what happens at Sierra Nevada. It’s an important stage with a lot of altitude,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to feel this Vuelta stage. I’ve been close before, second and third, but to win a stage is very satisfying.”

Grand tour rookie Carlos Rodríguez struggled a bit Thursday on the upper reaches of the Peñas Blancas climb in final accelerations, but hung with the top GC favorites for most of the climb.

The Spanish rider ceded a few seconds to his podium rivals, but defended fourth overall, now at 4:06 back.

“Carlos is impressive so far,” Carapaz said. “He’s very strong so far and we will keep backing him to see how far he can go.”

Carapaz’s days in an Ineos jersey are winding down, but he paid back the team with a stage win at the Vuelta.

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