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Carapaz calm and confident before decisive final week at Giro d'Italia

Richard Carapaz on the podium at the Giro d'Italia
Richard Carapaz on the podium at the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

Staying focused but calm is one of the secrets of success in Grand Tours and Richard Carapaz appears to be in total control of his own emotions as he enters the final week of the Giro d'Italia in the maglia rosa.

Carapaz took the pink jersey after a strong ride on the hilly stage in the heat around Turin on Saturday and Ineos Grenadiers switched to defensive mode on Sunday for the Alpine stage to Cogne.

When the Giro d'Italia resumes on Tuesday, the high mountains will hurt immediately and will be a painful opening to the final six stages.

The 202km 16th stage from Salo' to Aprica includes the little-known 19.km Goletto di Cadino climb, the better know but slightly easier Monno side of the Passo del Mortirolo and the ever-steepening Valico di Santa Cristina - a climb made famous by Marco Pantani in 1994. Stage 17 to Lavarone has a double-climb finale, stage 19 is another hard day out during a visit to Slovenia and then stage 20 ends atop the Marmoladas before Sunday's final 17.4km time trial around Verona.

Carapaz took the maglia rosa on stage 14 just as he did in 2019. That year's Corsa Rosa also finished in Verona with a time trial and the Ecuadorian is hoping for a similar final week and outcome.

"I feel even better than I did in 2019, even if then the victory was far from assured, so that gives me even more confidence for the week to come," Carapaz said, via video call from the Ineos Grenadiers team bus parked at their rest day near Lake Garda.

"The week ahead of us favours us even more. There are a lot of metres of climbing with long rides to the top of the climbs," Carapaz suggested, adding a hint of bravado to his quiet self-confidence.

"I've really focused on being strong for these mountain stages. We also have the maglia rosa and that gives us extra motivation to defend it. We don't have a quiet day all week. The key will be to be focused, take it day by day, and try to minimise any losses. We're ready to leave everything on the road. The team is calm and optimistic about what lies ahead in the next week."

Carapaz and several teammates took a helicopter for the transfer from Cogne to Salo' for the third rest day, avoiding a three-hour evening drive in the Ineos Grenadiers team bus. Post-stage, Carapaz had the podium protocol, media obligations and anti-doping control but his teammates and the helicopter waited for him to ensure he maximised his recovery and travel.

Carapaz is also careful to praise and encourage his teammates. They were absent in the finale of the Turin stage but were back to their usual best on Sunday, riding a solid and consistent tempo on the climbs to discourage any attacks.

"The team will count for a lot during the final week," Carapaz pointed out.

"If you're caught out alone you can really pay for it. The team is strong for the mountains with Richie, Pavel [Sivakov], Ben [Tulett], and [Jonathan] Castroviejo is getting better after a crash.

"Most of our rivals were alone or with fewer teammates on Sunday. There were five of us in the finale of the stage to Cogne and during the hard final week, it's important to have at least one teammate at your side in the decisive moments. We're motivated."

"The key in this Giro really starts tomorrow. Tuesday's stage features 5,000 metres and the weariness will start to be felt," Carapaz explained.

"I think these four big days in the mountains will be the biggest part in who decides who wins the Giro. The time trial final will not be so decisive in who wins or who doesn't win the Giro."

Carapaz is in pink on the rest day just like in 2019 but this year's general classification is much tighter. Carapaz leads Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) by just seven seconds, with João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) third at 30 seconds and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) still a threat at 59 seconds. All four have solid teams to back them and are expected to emerge to fight for the final podium spots.

"We have a good idea of who will be there to fight for the jersey," Carapaz said. "There's Hindley and Almeida, and Landa is a big candidate too."

With humid, great clouds gathering over Lake Garda and Salò and thundershowers predicted for late on Tuesday afternoon in Aprica and throughout the last week, the weather could also be an added factor and extra rival for Carapaz.

He has crashed twice but avoided injury but Carapaz shrugged off the idea that bad weather, wet descents or even cold conditions could cause any extra stress. 

"It's been really, really hot so far, if it rains tomorrow, we'll see how we respond," he said.

"We're ready to take on anything that the mountains throw at us. The weather doesn't worry me too much."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.