Carapaz Seals Vuelta Stage Victory Hattrick
29-year-old Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz earlier today climbed to his third stage victory in the 2022 Vuelta a Espana and victory in the King of Mountains classification – thereby securing noteworthy success in a Grand Tour that has otherwise been disappointing for his Ineos-Grenadiers team.
Stage 20 of La Vuelta 2022 was the final stage before Sunday’s 96.7-kilometer parade stage into Madrid. The 181-kilometer route from Moralzarzal to Puerto de Navacerrada featured no less than three category one climbs, the last mountains of this year’s Vuelta, concluding with a 10.5-kilometer scenic ride up the Puerto de Cotos on beautiful mountain roads flanked by old pine trees.
Carapaz attacked early in the stage with a group of breakaway companions and proved the strongest man on the Puerto de Cotos, soloing to victory eagerly chased by Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) who crossed the finish line eight seconds after the winner.
It was the final stage in which general classification leader Remco Evenepoel would have to defend himself in mountainous terrain and the final opportunity for general classification contenders from competing teams to challenge Evenepoel’s Vuelta leadership. While Evenepoel’s opponents attacked him from early in the stage he looked set to defend his leadership together with the rest of a hardworking QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl team.
On the penultimate climb of the day, the Puerto de la Morcuera, Evenepoel’s rivals delivered a series of powerful accelerations, hoping it would put a halt to Evenepoel’s persisting stamina. The increased speed caused the GC group to be reduced to approximately ten riders, but Evenepoel soldiered on and did not falter. Instead, Evenepoel took to the front of the group, hoping to show his opponents they did not stand a chance against the 22-year-old Belgian.
With stage leader and eventual winner Carapaz further up the road, the GC favorites group contested the final mountain of the 2022 La Vuelta, but GC challengers such as Movistar’s Enric Mas, Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) did not manage to break Evenepoel’s defenses.
“I didn’t sleep too much last night, and this morning, before the start, I was quite stressed, but during the race I felt better and was relaxed, having confidence in myself and my teammates,” a happy Evenepoel explained to Roadcycling.com. “I knew that what I had to do was to control and follow my opponents. Everything ran smoothly, just as I hoped.”
With only Sunday’s parade stage into Madrid left on the menu of the 2022 Tour of Spain, Evenepoel appears certain of taking the first Grand Tour victory of his career.
“This is the biggest victory, the biggest moment of my career, and it feels incredible. It’s for my parents, my wife-to-be, my teammates. It’s the result of many weeks and months of hard work and sacrifices and always believing in myself. I love racing in Spain, I have had success here since my first professional season and to win La Vuelta is a dream. It wasn’t easy, I had some stiff opposition, but I’ve done it and I can’t tell you how much this means for me,” Evenepoel concluded.
Today’s stage victory by Carapaz was his third in this year’s Vuelta and the win secured his victory in the King of Mountains classification in what is to be one of his last races riding for the Ineos-Grenadiers team. Carapaz finished second overall in the Giro d’Italia earlier this season but did not manage to win a Giro stage this time.
"I’m very moved, it’s a very nice victory for me. Importantly, I think it shows the type of rider I am,” proud stage winner Carapaz told Roadcycling.com after being celebrated. “To fight for the KOM (King of Mountains classification) was one of my goals. At the start, without going crazy, I went in the splits, I tried to be up there. Then we knew it was a very hard stage and fellow breakaway riders were losing ground.”
“It’s spectacular for me to be be able to win a stage wearing this KOM jersey that means a lot to me. I’m very moved. Today I saw a lot of Ecuadorians cheering for me along the roads. I hope they enjoyed the race," Carapaz added.
Carapaz will ride for Team EF Education First-EasyPost next season.