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Giro d'Italia favourite Carapaz aims for two Grand Tours in 2022

Richard Carapaz (Ineos) at the Giro d'Italia team presentation
Richard Carapaz (Ineos) at the Giro d'Italia team presentation (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Three years ago, when Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) started on his road to an unexpected but fully deserved victory at the Giro d’Italia, at the press conference with his teammate and then Movistar star contender Mikel Landa, the Ecuadorian fielded a grand total of one question.

Fast forward to 2022 and it’s a very different kettle of fish for the 28-year-old racer. As a former Giro winner and with Grand Tour podium success in both the Tour de France (2021) and the Vuelta a España, Carapaz started the traditional round of pre-Giro media grilling of the favourites on Wednesday in Budapest as the rider most widely rated as the likely winner in Verona in just over three weeks time. 

Needless to say, journalist interest in what he had to say was far higher than three years ago when he received one symbolic enquiry on his chances in 2019 at Bologna's trade fair hall, which doubled as the Giro's media centre that May.

Questions centred around Carapaz's role in a team built almost exclusively around his GC bid for a second Giro d’Italia in four years and on how he is motivated by teammate and defending champion Egan Bernal’s life-threatening accident and courageous fight to recover to try and win again. There was also space for a unprompted racing-related revelation too - this year Carapaz is determined to fight for a second Grand Tour this year at the Vuelta a España.

Carapaz has ridden two Grand Tours in the same year on three occasions, in 2018, 2020 and 2021. This is the first year he will combine Giro and Vuelta since 2018, when when he finished fourth and 18th respectively, and the first where he will be looking for success in both.

"It's a new objective and very personal one," Carapaz said, before confirming he wants to try for two different Grand Tours this year, but that first is the Giro, of course. "Racing here with a strong team is very important, I want to do as well as possible and try to win."

Carapaz' gifts as a climber and time triallist have been well established by now, but as BikeExchange-Jayco sports director Matt White told Cyclingnews recently, one of the principle weapons in his armoury is his unpredictability. Launching surprise moves are something of an in-house Carapaz specialty, in fact and indeed at the Volta a Catalunya this spring, his long-distance charge away on the second last stage netted him both his first victory since the Olympic Games road ace seven months before.

Perhaps more relevantly, those kinds of moves have recently won riders Grand Tours, too. It was the case for both Tadej Pogačar in the Alps during the Tour de France last year, and for Primož Roglič, too, when he tore away with Bernal last year in the Lagos de Covadonga in the Vuelta a España, some 60 kilometres from the finish, and won the race in the process.

Asked if he could contemplate a similar kind of long distance assault on the maglia rosa in 2022, Carapaz said it was certainly not out of the question.

"You have to see how strong you are and then see what we can do," he said. "Those sorts of attacks have become kind of fashionable these days."

"The Giro d'Italia is never won in a single stage, though. But we've seen lots of surprises in this race. Sometimes the biggest stage on paper doesn't end up being the key one."

The Giro, in any case, has a special place in Carapaz' memories. It's not just where he took his first and to date only Grand Tour, but also where he took his first-ever Grand Tour stage, with a late gutsy attack at Montevergine in 2016. "A very nice moment," he confirmed in Budapest, "it was the first time I could win like that. I remember it was raining and I was wearing the best young rider's jersey. That was special."

But three years on from his victorious Giro d'Italia, Carapaz warns that he is no longer the same kind of rider. "I'm a very different Richard to that year, my form is different and I have a very clear objective. In 2019, I was sharing the leader's role, now I've got my own chance.

"We've got a well-balanced team that can cover for each other," added teammate Ben Swift, also part of the Giro d'Italia line up for Ineos Grenadiers back in 2020, when they won with Tao Geoghegan Hart.

"Richard's a great leader, he's a very focussed, driven guy, but he's a great guy on the training camps too, he's one of the lads there."

Swift highlighted the all-round qualities of a team with considerable firepower in all different areas, ranging from experienced racers like Sivakov and Richie Porte in the mountains to 20-year-old Ben Tulett, taking part in his first-ever Grand Tour.

"If stuff goes wrong, we're all in good enough shape to go for our own opportunities," Swift said. "But first off we're all here to go for the jersey with Richard."

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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 IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.