Just four months ago Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) stood on the podium of the Vuelta a España as runner-up behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). He may not be at that level yet in the Volta a Catalunya, but he is in the thick of the action all the same in what is his first race of 2021.
Laying 20th overall after stage 5, Carapaz has been a prominent figure on each of the main climbs of Friday’s Volta a Catalunya and the ascent of the first-category Alt de Montserrat was no different, where Carapaz could be seen driving hard at the front of the GC group for race leader and teammate Adam Yates, and in the process almost halving the breakaway’s advantage from four minutes to just over two.
Carapaz’s big objectives of the season are much further down the line, he told reporters earlier in the week, but he is already very satisfied with how he has returned to race action in the Volta.
“I can’t be anything but happy,” Carapaz told reporters. “I’ve come straight here after a long time with no racing, and being up there with the best so quickly is a big boost to my morale.
“I’ve done a lot of good work for the team, and that’s good preparation for me, too.”
On stage 4, where Carapaz was due to play a key support role on the ascent of the Port Ainé, there was a minor hiccup when he had a mechanical halfway up the climb.
“I had to stop and put my chain back on, but I came back, got back into it all, and then I could finish off the work,” he said. “That was very satisfying.”
Carapaz explained that his belated start to racing in 2021 was due to the late finish of his season in 2020, “because I’m thinking about the Tour de France and how best to get there.”
He agreed that Ineos Grenadiers were using the Volta as something of a test run for several key Tour riders, including himself, and, “little by little we’re defining what each of us is doing. It’s going well."
However, Carapaz is not going to stay in a domestique’s role all the way to July, he said.
“My next race will be the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where I hope to be up there with the best, and maybe go for the overall myself this time round.”
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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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