Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) resisted Primož Roglič’s display of time trialling power much better than expected on stage 13 with a tenacious performance that saw the Ecuadorian lose the race lead for a second time, but remain with more than a reasonable chance of overall victory at the Vuelta a España.
"To take full control of the race, Roglič has to win by at least a minute," predicted Spanish TV commentator and former double Vuelta winner Pedro Delgado, but instead the Slovenian’s advantage was a comparatively narrow 25 seconds on Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) and 49 seconds on Carapaz.
As a result, Carapaz has now dropped to second, but on a day when the podium battle squeezed down from five to three, the Ecuadorian, at 39 seconds, is by no means out of the fray.
To judge by his gung-ho tone after Tuesday’s pivotal stage, Carapaz sounded far from happy to settle for second overall in Madrid, and on the days to come either by ambush or by a set-piece battle in the mountains of Extremadura this weekend, he was adamant the Vuelta is far from over yet.
Asked if he was pleased with the result, Carapaz responded with a categorical "Si (yes). It was a very tough TT and I’m very happy with how it went. We’re here to try and get the Vuelta and we’re still on the road to that."
Thanks to a fast start, the Vuelta leader was just two seconds behind Roglič at the first intermediate checkpoint after 12km. Carapaz's time-loss on Roglič was slow but never catastrophic afterwards.
On an incident-free race for all three of the top GC racers, Carapaz ceded 19 seconds by the second checkpoint after 24.5km, his bike change at the foot of the Ezaro was a smooth one, and on the last climb where Roglič stepped on the gas, his time loss was a further 20 seconds at most.
Eleventh at 1:55 on the San Marino time trial in the Giro last year, Carapaz had repeatedly said before Tuesday that he has put in some hard work on the discipline over the winter, and it appeared to pay dividends in the Vuelta.
"We prepared well for this, and I’m still in the fight. The time trial wasn’t at all flat," he pointed out," and I think finally that favoured me."
With far less than a minute between himself and Roglič, and Carthy also confirmed as a GC challenger, Carapaz argued that, "the Vuelta is still wide open. We’ve still got lots of chances, there’s some very hard stages still to come, and there are lots of opportunities to make a move."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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