Richard Carapaz (Movistar) says that he will not worry about gaining time on Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) ahead of the Giro d’Italia’s closing time trial. However, his team boss Eusebio Unzue has other ideas, saying that Carapaz must take at least a minute on Roglic if he is to go into the chrono with any comfort of keeping the maglia rosa on his shoulders.
Carapaz is the race leader after a dramatic solo victory into Courmayeur on Saturday, which saw him take almost two minutes on most of the other contenders. He looked strong once again on Sunday’s stage 15, as he followed the attacks of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and gained more time on some of his rivals – including Roglic. But Carapaz does not want to look too far down the line and is taking each day as it comes.
"I do not intend to estimate anything or look beyond day-to-day. Because of my previous performances, I hope to continue performing like this. I can not guarantee that I will be the champion, but I will try to offer my best level," Carapaz said during Movistar’s press conference on the second rest day.
“The last week I hope to be able to maintain this. I have the confidence in myself to do my best, I cannot say that I’m going to be the champion, there are many people who can fight for the podium and anything can happen.”
Carapaz made up an additional 40 seconds on Roglic during Sunday’s stage, after the Slovenian suffered a mechanical problem and a subsequent crash. He now sits 47 seconds ahead of Roglic in the overall standings with three major mountain stages and the final time trial to come. Carapaz lost some 47 seconds to Roglic in the opening 9.7-kilometre time trial, and 1:55 in the second 34.8-kilometre. Both had a fair amount of climbing in it, as does the final 17-kilometre time trial, and so Carapaz is likely to lose something in between what he lost in the opening two. For this reason, Unzue calls Roglic the race’s virtual leader at the moment.
“Roglic has been immense in the first days. He was missing a bit of luck in the mountains but he has had a great level. He might not have the jersey but he is the virtual leader of this race because he has the condition of a time trialist. I think that Richie needs at least another minute to be able to relax.”
While Unzue looks to Roglic as the biggest danger at the moment, his riders differ in this opinion once again. Mikel Landa, who has been edging up the standings after a disastrous first week, believes it is his former teammate Nibali that presents the biggest threat in the final week.
“Nibali has four Grand Tours already and for this reason, he is the favourite but Roglic is a really strong rival,” said Landa. "Nibali will attack, we will not underestimate any opponent, but we know that Vincenzo will move the race and will not settle for anything other than reaching the first position in Verona."
Landa is currently sitting in fifth place at 3:15 behind Carapaz in the overall standings after taking an aggressive approach to the first mountain stages. He was unable to keep the pace of Carapaz in the finale and lost some time to his teammate by the finish line in Como, though he came across the line with a number of other general classification men as well as gaining time on some of those around him in the standings.
On the last rest day, Landa said that Carapaz would be the team’s leader. However, the pair have appeared to have equal billing in recent days as they play off each other to wear down their rivals. With Carapaz in pink, the lines may be less blurred but Landa says that, while he will continue to help his teammate, he is looking for a "protagonists role" in the final week.
As well as what was going on out on the road, the topic of Carapaz’s coach came up. In a world that is still heavily dominated by men in a lot of roles, the fact that Carapaz has a female coach proved a bit of a curiosity for some in the press conference. The 25-year-old has been coached by former rider Iosune Murillo for three years now.
Murillo, who used to ride for the Basque Bizkaia-Durango squad, is on Movistar’s technical team and trains a number of the men and women. Carapaz first met her at one of his amateur teams and has continued to work with her since.
"When I came to Lizarte I met Iosune Murillo and I started with her,” said Carapaz. “We worked very well together and the results of that work were reflected in the road. We established a very good rider-coach relationship, in which I could give my opinion and suggest things. She always applied everything according to the good results. We have been working together for three years, I am very happy with my coach."
Unzue added: “I am very comfortable with her [working with the team]. She is a great professional in a world of men.”