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Carapaz confident but Ineos want time gains in final Giro d'Italia mountains

Richard Carapaz finishes stage 17 just ahead of Jai Hindley
Richard Carapaz finishes stage 17 just ahead of Jai Hindley (Image credit: Ilario Biondi/SprintCyclingAgency)

Richard Carapaz and Ineos Grenadiers enjoyed the fast ride to Treviso on stage 18 at the Giro d'Italia, trying to rest for the decisive mountain stages now looming large on the horizon to the north.

While biggest rival Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) had the scare of a late puncture but stayed at just three seconds back, Carapaz had to again face the race leader's protocol that includes podium duties, interviews and often being last at anti-doping control.

Ineos Grenadiers tried to minimise the impact of the extra duties on Carapaz's recovery and he remained cool and collected, giving little away. Yet a simple question in the post-race press conference revealed his simple state of mind.

"How confident are you of winning the Giro between one and one hundred?" Carapaz was asked.

"100%," Carapaz said, with a smile, explaining why. "There are three very important days coming up and then there's the final time trial, which could be a mano-mano battle. But I think the stages suit us.

"Hindley and I are at about the same time and same level and Landa could always attack. But we're prepared for stages. We're not afraid of what's to come."

Lead Ineos Grenadiers directeur sportif Matteo Tosatto is from Treviso and enjoyed a brief moment with his family after the stage. However, his thoughts soon turned to the final three days of the Giro d'Italia and the showdown with Hindley and Landa. With Hindley just three seconds behind and Landa at 1:05 but still a threat, Ineos Grenadiers will have to fight hard for victory.

"I've got confidence in my guys," Tosatto told Cyclingnews and the Cycling Podcast.

The final two mountain stages are important and that includes the stage to Castelmonte, which some people are perhaps thinking is just a hilly stage. The tactics will be important, but at the end of the day it's the legs that decide."

Tosatto is expecting attacks from both Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain Victorious. Both have strong teams to support Hindley and Landa, with the Spaniard needing to be on the offensive to gain significant time before Sunday's final time trial.

"The stage to Castelmonte and on Saturday to the Marmolada are the last two chances for anyone to take time. For us to take time on our rivals but also for Bahrain and especially for Bora. I think Bora are waiting for the two big stages.

"It's important for all three teams to make the stages harder. The harder the stages, the better chance we have of taking time."

Tosatto has carefully studied the final stages.

"Friday's stage goes into Slovenia and finishes in Castelmonte. I went to recon the stage in the week before the Giro began and it's not an easy stage," he warned.

"The second to last climb (the 10.3km, 9.2% Kolovrat) is very hard and the descent is also tricky. Then there's the finish up to Castelmonte, which is not easy.

"Saturday's stage on the Passo Fedaia is the last mountain stage and it's in the high Dolomites. It's the first time we've climbed over 2000 metres and that will affect lots of riders. The last climb up the finish will hurt a lot of riders."

Tosatto's dream scenario is for Carapaz to keep the maglia rosa and gain time on Hindley and Landa before Sunday's time trial. Carapaz can likely defend a certain lead, and perhaps even win from behind, but Tosatto is keen to avoid any tension and problems on the last stage.

"I'd prefer to start Sunday with more of a gap on Hindley, so I hope we can take time in the mountains," he said, perhaps revealing Ineos Grenadiers' strategy for the next two days.

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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.