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With six stages left to race, Carapaz holds a slender seven-second lead to Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), with a handful of others breathing down his neck at just 61 seconds back.
Carapaz isn’t intimidated by what lies ahead. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. The Olympic champion is licking his chops for the Giro’s mythically difficult final week.
“The final week is favorable for us,” he said. “I’ve really focused on being strong for these mountains. We also have the maglia rosa and that gives us an extra motivation to defend it. This coming week will surely be difficult but we are ready to leave everything on the road.”
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Carapaz was the favorite to win the 2022 Giro even before it started.
Backed by the powerful Ineos Grenadiers team, anchored by Richie Porte and Pavel Sivakov in support, Carapaz is poised to ride into the final week with what would be his second pink jersey within his grasp.
All he needs to do is avoid mishaps, crashes, illnesses, bonks, and a laundry list of things that can go wrong in the final week of any grand tour.
That’s something that Carapaz, who won the 2019 Giro and who was third in last year’s Tour de France, knows all too well.
“The week that is ahead of us favors us even more,” Carapaz said. “There are a lot of meters of climbing with long approaches to the top of the climbs. The team is calm about what lies ahead in the next week.”
After riding at the front since the opening day at the Giro, Ineos Grenadiers ushered Carapaz into the maglia rosa in Saturday’s wild stage to Turin.
Bora-Hansgrohe blew the race apart with around 80km to go and isolated Carapaz from the rest of his teammates, but the 28-year-old attacked with around 28km to go.
Carapaz was brought back, but it was enough to slot him into pink, but now he knows who is rivals are.
“We have a good idea of who will be there to fight for the jersey. With Hindley, Almeida, and Landa, and it’s going to be a hard week with a lot of mountains. I think we have a good presentation of will be the challengers for victory.
“The key in this Giro really starts tomorrow. Tuesday’s stage features 5,000 meters and the weariness will start to be noted,” Carapaz said. “We don’t have a quiet day all week. The key will be in being focused, take it on day by day, and to try to minimize any losses.”
The mountains almost always decide the Giro, but the final-day time trial in Verona could add an unwelcome twist to the Ineos Grenadiers roadmap to pink.
With João Almeida hovering at just 30 seconds back, Carapaz knows he will need to open more time if he wants to race Sunday without too much hanging in the balance.
“I think these four big days in the mountains will be the biggest factor in who decides who wins the Giro,” Carapaz said. “The time trial final will not be so decisive in who wins or who doesn’t win the Giro.”
Carapaz said he’s not bothered by the possibilities of the weather turning for the worse as forecasters expect.
In fact, a confident Carapaz seems ready for all takers, be it attacks from rivals or horrific weather from Mother Nature.
“If it rains tomorrow, we’ll see how we respond. So far there’s been a lot of heat, but we’re ready to take on anything that the mountains throw at us. The weather doesn’t worry me too much.
“I feel even better than I did in 2019, and in that case, it was far from assured, so that gives me even more confidence for the week to come.”
All eight Ineos Grenadiers riders remain in the race. The team carved its reputation by winning seven yellow jerseys in eight years at the Tour de France with four different riders, but it’s quietly emerged as a Giro dominator as well.
The UK outfit has won three of the past four pink jerseys, and looks on track to win its third straight.
Carapaz knows he’s safest inside the warm cocoon of cycling’s richest team.
“The team will count for a lot during the final week,” he said. “If you’re caught out alone you can really pay for it. The team is strong with Richie, Pavel, Ben, and riders like Castroviejo is getting better.
“We were five there in the final and the hard final week it’s important to have one teammate at your side in the decisive moments.”