Forty-seven seconds is all that separates Movistar's Richard Carapaz from his Giro d'Italia rivals as the first Grand Tour of the year heads into its final week.
Cycling Central

28 May 2019 - 12:38 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2019 - 12:39 PM

Although considered an excellent climber with Grand Tour winning potential, the 25-year-old Equadorian is still somewhat of a surprise race leader at this stage of the Giro - showing stamina for the three week challenge as well as tactical nous to match that of veteran performers.

Along with Vincenzi Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Carapaz was the protagonist of the second week of the Giro, winning the Courmayeur stage along with the Maglia Rosa, and increasing his advantage in the GC over rivals Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and two-time champion Nibali.

While he and the third-placed Nibali became stronger and more confident, Roglic, despite holding on to second overall, showed some weakness and doubt on Stage 15 from Ivrea to Como with a messy performance.

"He’s (Nibali) really strong, one of the most dangerous rivals I’ll face next week," Carapaz said. "I think we’ll come across each other a lot. Hopefully, we can have a beautiful battle and make the fans enjoy the show."

Speaking on the rest day after a morning session on the rollers due to bad weather, Nibali was in a relaxed and confident mood expected of a Grand Tour veteran ahead of the final decisive week of racing.

“We’ve already done some difficult stages, but starting from tomorrow we all be more tired," he said. "In general I feel right because I know my worth. I don’t want to say more, but I know that I can do well in this Giro. I don’t take anything for granted.

"The Giro is unpredictable as always. I don’t know what will be the good strategy if to try to gain seconds day by day or give a ‘KO punch’ to my rivals in one stage. This is a very tactical Giro and we saw many phases of study so far”.

But this isn't just a race between three men. If this Giro has shown anything it's that anything can happen on any given day and there will be more changes to come with 10 riders within six minutes of Carapaz.

Leading that group is Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe) at 2min 35sec and Carapaz's Movistar team-mate Mikel Landa in fifth place, another 40 seconds back.

Also chasing is Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), previous race leader Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Mitchelton-Scott's Simon Yates who seems to be growing in strength after faltering in the first week, Pavel Sivakov (Team INEOS) and Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez.

On tap for the next six stages are mountains, mountains and more mountains finished off with a 17km time trial in Verona, favouring Roglic should he hold his position.

Despite flirting with disaster on Stage 15 with a mechanical, bike swap and crash, Roglic was largely unperturbed, recognising the severity of the final week of racing.

“It wasn’t a good day for me, but it wasn’t the worst either," he said. “All in all I can live with the outcome of this stage, taking all bad luck into account.

"It is still a long way to Verona and anything can happen. I still feel pretty good. First I will enjoy the rest day and then we will see what will happen next.”

What that is, no one knows.