Leading Giro d’Italia favourite Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) insisted Sunday that the bigger picture is the only one that matters after a slightly mixed, but ultimately positive-looking, bag of results on the Giro’s opening three stages.
On the opening day’s uphill finish, much shorter than the second-category climb where he won in Montevergine de Mercogliano in 2018 and much longer than the punchy ascent at Frascati in 2019, Carapaz claimed a notable sixth place.
Of his GC rivals, only Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) - although it is yet to be decided if the Basque will fight for the overall - finished ahead. Thanks to the gaps, the three nabbed a handy four-second advantage on the rest of the field.
Things did not turn out quite so well on Saturday, though, as Carapaz crossed the line 19th, a hefty 28 seconds down on surprise winner Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco).
Speaking to reporters on Sunday morning before stage 3, Carapaz himself described the time loss as "considerable" but remained globally upbeat.
He didn’t mention it, but it’s worth remembering he lost a much more significant 47 seconds to Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on the opening TT in Bologna in 2019, a race that ended with the Ecuadorian in pink after the Giro’s final stage in Verona.
"It was a very good outcome for us, even though my time loss on Yates was considerable," Carapaz told reporters. "We have to keep it going, day by day and there’s a very long way to go.
"The time gap was, in the end, within what we planned and we [the overall favourites] are all more or less on the same level."
While a more realistic picture of Carapaz' chances will likely emerge next Tuesday on Mount Etna, and above all a week today on the Blockhaus, Budapest was notable for how Ineos Grenadiers secured a notable all-round result, with four riders in the top 20, ranging from Ben Tulett in fifth to Carapaz in 19th.
Although there is no Filippo Ganna this year winning multiple time trials as he has done in his previous Giros, nor a sprinter like Elia Viviani in the Ineos line-up, Carapaz confirmed that this year the team was on a different mission.
"We’re fully focussed on the GC this year so let’s see what happens," he said. "In any case, there’s a lot of hard days ahead" - starting with Etna, of course - "and they’re the ones that count."
"I think we can be very happy in general," sports director Matteo Tosatto commented when asked by reporters about how the three stages in Hungary had gone for the team.
"The team is a good place, no crashes, just Richie [Porte] a small one and Budapest was a great performance for the TT. But the most important thing is the riders are really coming together well as a group."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, 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. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.