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Vuelta a España leader Carapaz confident about crunch TT on Tuesday

Team Ineos Ecuadorian rider Richard Carapaz celebrates on the podium as he keeps his overall race leader position after the 9th stage of the 2020 La Vuelta cycling tour of Spain a 1577km race from Castrillo del Val to Aguilar de Campoo on October 29 2020 Photo by ANDER GILLENEA AFP Photo by ANDER GILLENEAAFP via Getty Images
Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers celebrates on the podium with overall race leader position after stage 9 of the Vuelta (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) has expressed high hopes that he will be able to retain the race lead at the 2020 Vuelta a España in his ongoing ding-dong battle with rival Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and the other top GC favourites.

Carapaz currently holds a 10-second advantage on Roglič, 32 seconds on Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) and 35 seconds on Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), with Enric Mas (Movistar) rounding out the top five at almost two minutes back.

In declarations released by his team, Carapaz said that he could be calm about Tuesday’s 33.7-kilometre test, and confirmed that he had been working on his time trialling during the off-season.

“I’m very calm about it. I know it’s a very hard TT but above all I have prepared for it, I’m going to do it very well,” Carapaz insisted.

The 2019 Giro d’Italia winner pointed out there was still a considerable amount of racing left after the Ézaro TT, and that it was not just himself and Roglič in the fight for victory in cycling’s final Grand Tour of the 2020 season. He even conjectured that Carthy, currently third overall, could be up for the win.

“Other riders [in the top five] have a lot of experience in Grand Tours, like Dan Martin, or they’re strong young guns like Carthy,” Carapaz said. “But this time trial will show us who is really in with a chance of victory in Madrid.”

In any case, up to now only two riders have held the leader’s red jersey:  Roglič, from the opening victory on the Arrate through to stage 7 and again on stages 10 and 11, while Carapaz has been in la roja  in all the others.

The switching of the lead between the two, Carapaz said, made it a much more attractive Vuelta than if the race had simply been dominated by one rider.

“We knew Roglič was a favourite and he showed that,” Carapaz said. “But then I got a chance and I took the jersey. Losing it again in Suances [on stage 10] but then getting it back has meant the Vuelta’s been more interesting, something very beautiful to watch.”

As for points of reference for Tuesday to date in Grand Tours, Carapaz has never been stronger than Roglič, although the time trial at Planches des Belle Filles, their most recent TT duel, for different reasons, neither was on top of their games. 

Roglič, running on fumes by that point in the Tour, took fifth at 1:56. Carapaz reportedly slowed in the first half to try and retain his grip on the king of the mountains title by going all out on the climb - where the fastest times were awarded points for the polka-dot jersey. For the record, Carapaz finished 81st at 7:53, well behind Carthy, 54th at 6:56, Dan Martin, 31st at 5:31 and Mas, ninth at 2:45.

As for the 2019 Giro d’Italia TTs, Roglič won the short Bologna opener with a 47-second advantage on both Carapaz and Carthy, and had 1:30 on Carthy and 1:55 on Carapaz in the much longer test in San Marino. Even in the final 17km TT where Roglič was, again, out of sorts, he finished 10th, 46 seconds up on Carapaz. 

However, it was Carapaz who won the Giro d’Italia outright - and important though the Ézaro TT is, as Carapaz effectively says, when it comes to the opening chapter of the Vuelta, these are only the first few pages.