Don’t give Richard Carapaz an inch – a recap of stages 16-21 of the 2019 Giro d’Italia

Favourites in the mountains (all images via YouTube)

You might think that the marathon is a long race, but people are knocking them out in a couple of hours these days. A Grand Tour takes three weeks. Plenty changes in that time.

Three weeks ago, before the race began, Simon Yates said: “If I was in my rivals’ position, I would be scared. I would be shitting myself.”

Vincenzo Nibali gave a sense of how that comment went down in the peloton when he said, “Now I should go to the bathroom, according to Yates,” after the opening time trial.

Second place that day was as good as it got for Yates and he finished eighth overall. Turns out everyone should have been shitting themselves about Richard Carapaz instead.

Who?

Carapaz finished fourth in last year’s Giro d’Italia but nowhere near Chris Froome or Tom Dumoulin. He finished 71st and 52nd in the two time trials, which led everyone to mentally file him away as “strong mountain helper”.

He’s won a couple of smaller races over the course of his career, but nothing that would make you crank out 500 watts to close a gap if he got away from you on a mountain pass halfway through a stage.

‘He’ll be there helping Mikel Landa, but we don’t need to worry about him specifically,’ will have been the thinking among his oblivious rivals.

So what happened?

Early in the middle week, Carapaz had been far enough behind that Nibali and Primoz Roglic weren’t too concerned when he attacked. The second time he did so, they probably thought: “Oh shit, he actually seems to be stronger than us uphill. Maybe, with hindsight, we should have made more effort to chase him yesterday.”

This is how Carapaz started the final week ahead.

Stage 16 was bad for Primoz Roglic

It’s fair to say that the weather wasn’t great on the Mortirolo Pass.

Vincenzo Nibali attacked on the crazily-steep lower slopes and while most of the overall contenders caught him, Roglic did not.

A decidedly sketchy descent didn’t really help Roglic’s cause and by the end of the stage he’d lost 1m20s and second place to Nibali.

Stage 17 finished on a biathlon circuit

Which isn’t particularly important, but feels like it warrants a mention.

Almost as if I goaded him into it, Nans Peters got that first pro victory I was belittling him for not having last week. He won from the break. Back in the favourites’ group, it was business as usual with Mikel Landa attacking on the final climb and then Carapaz getting away from Nibali and Roglic a little further up. They both gained a few seconds, but the gaps were small.

Stage 18 was bloody amazing

It was totally irrelevant from the point of view of the overall, but it was a classic episode of that recurring drama, Breakaway Riders v Sprinters.

Honestly, just watch it. Start from 5m40s.

The winner was a guy called Damiano Cima. His second-highest stage finish in this Giro was 96th place on Stage 16.

Stage 19 saw a quiet statement from The People’s Champion

There’s always someone you warm to over the course of a Grand Tour and it’s usually the guy who’s good in the time trial who all the climbers gang up on during the mountain stages.

All in all, Primoz Roglic was resilient, but not quite good enough in this race. In the final few hundred metres of Stage 19, he floored it on the flattish finish in the hope that he might go so supersonically fast that people couldn’t even draft him.

He dropped no-one, but kudos for trying.

Stage 20 was slightly too brutal

It had promised huge time gaps, but the climbiest stage of the race pretty much broke everyone.

Landa attacked early, as usual, and most people caught him, except for Roglic who lost another 50 seconds. The move was enough for those two riders to swap places in the general classification with Roglic now off the podium in fourth.

The most memorable moment was undeniably Miguel Angel Lopez getting knocked off by a roadside knobhead though.

It was one of those guys who loves to be on TV sprinting alongside the riders and he ran into another spectator and ricocheted into Lopez, who was mid-attack at the time.

Lopez responded by giving the guy the old forehand-backhand, back-and-forth slap as he lay on the ground. He then knocked his cap about 20 yards down the road.

Technically, you’re supposed to get disqualified for this kind of thing, but everyone in cycling thought it was fair enough and pretended to have momentarily lost the use of their eyes and nothing came of it.

Stage 21 was a time trial

Here’s what Mikel Landa looks like at the start of a guaranteed bad day.

That’s his time trial gear. That’s Mikel Landa about to do a time trial. That’s Mikel Landa about to have a bad day.

In the three time trials of this race, Landa lost 1m07s, 3m03s and 31s to Roglic. He finished eight seconds behind him in the final standings in fourth place.

Landa and Carapaz were the outstanding climbers at this race. Carapaz was less bad at time trials.

Here’s the final top ten.

A word too for 24-year-old Hugh Carthy from Preston, who finished just out of shot in 11th place. The 6ft3in spindly ganglatron climbed with the best of ’em for most of the mountain stages and performed creditably in the first two time trials. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in future Grand Tours.

What’s next?

The Critérium du Dauphiné, the big Tour de France preparation race takes place in the middle of this month with a completely different cast of characters (Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Nairo Quintana, Richie Porte). I would say the odds are against me covering it on this site, but you never know.

Assuming I don’t, I’ll meet you back here for a bit of a Tour de France preview. The race starts on July 6. Please sign up for the email and please tell other people to do so too.