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Richard Carapaz to start season at Volta a Catalunya

SALLENT DE GLLEGO SPAIN OCTOBER 25 Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers Oakley sunglasses during the 75th Tour of Spain 2020 Stage 6 a 1464km stage from Biescas to Sallent de Gllego Aramn Formigal 1790m lavuelta LaVuelta20 La Vuelta on October 25 2020 in Sallent de Gllego Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Richard Caparaz (Ineos Grenadiers) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Richard Caparaz will begin his 2021 season at the Volta a Catalunya in March. The Ineos Grenadiers rider will line up at Itzulia Basque Country and the Ardennes Classics the following month before returning to Ecuador to prepare for the Tour de France.

"The Volta a Catalunya is a race that I've done in previous editions and I think this year is very special because it has two climbs that can be very good for me," Carapaz said on his personal website

"I think it's going to be a tough race, one of the first where we’ll be there with the team before the Tour de France, and we're going to try to do it as best we can."

After its cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Volta a Catalunya is scheduled to return for its 100th edition from March 22-28, and the route features summit finishes at Vallter 2000 and Port Ainé.

It will be Carapaz’s debut at the Volta a Catalunya and it also marks the first time he will start his season outside South America since 2017. The Tour Colombia 2.1, where Carapaz began his 2020 season, was cancelled this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

After racing in Catalonia, Carapaz is then set to ride Itzulia Basque Country (April 5-10) before bringing the curtain down on the opening phase of his season at Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Carapaz will then return to Ecuador to train at altitude ahead of the Tour de France, which he described as "the main objective of the year". The Ecuadorian is set to ride the Tour as one of Ineos’ protected riders, alongside Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart, while he will also aim to compete in the road race at the Tokyo Olympics immediately afterwards.

"I think this year is also very special because of that," he said.

The 2019 Giro d’Italia winner is currently training in Ecuador ahead of his second season at Ineos. He was initially scheduled to defend his Giro title last year but was drafted into Ineos’ Tour selection shortly before the Grand Départ in Nice. He rode aggressively on his Tour debut, placing 13th overall in Paris and conceding stage victory to teammate Michal Kwiatkowski at Villard-de-Lans after a two-up break.

In November, Carapaz placed second overall behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) at the Vuelta a España, losing out by just 24 seconds. He was overall leader for five days earlier in the race and he came close to divesting Roglič of the red jersey with an attack on the Alto de la Covatilla on the penultimate day.