• Richard Carapaz on the attack at La Covatilla during the 2020 Vuelta a Espana (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) finished just 24 seconds behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) on the overall standings of the 2020 edition Vuelta a España, and pushed his Slovenian rival all the way to the final summit finish on La Covatilla.
SBS Cycling Central

9 Nov 2020 - 12:05 PM  UPDATED 9 Nov 2020 - 1:05 PM

The Ecuadorian 2019 Giro d'Italia winner boisterously celebrated his second-placed finish in front of hundreds of his compatriots at the race finish in Madrid.

Carapaz stood on the second step of the podium, behind Roglič and ahead of young Briton Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling).

Carapaz's Vuelta was built upon consistent performances in the mountains, where he arguably stronger than Roglič, but he lost 49 seconds to the eventual winner in the time trial and also surprisingly leaked time in the harder sprint finishes as Roglič showcased his fast finish.

Carapaz launched a final assault on Roglič's red jersey on the summit finish to Stage 17, but despite quickly gaining a sizeable gap, Roglič rallied and was able to hold Carapaz's gains to just 21 seconds, well short of the 45-second swing required.

“I don’t have any kind of bitter taste in my mouth," said Carapaz after that stage. "I raced as hard as I could and the best I could. If I didn’t get more bonus seconds, that was how it was. I have no regrets.”

Carapaz reflected upon losing teammates Michal Golas and Brandon Rivera ahead of the first rest day, work that had to be assumed by key lieutenants who were then absent at times in the high mountains.

"In a team of eight riders, losing two mattered a lot,” he said, “but under the circumstances, we did a great job. I’ve always tried to stay in the action, and fight as hard as possible for this race.

“Of course I wanted to win the Vuelta but I’m finishing this season feeling very satisfied with my second place overall. And above all, we know that for another time, we’ll have a team that’s fully competitive.”

Carapaz's season was stranger than most, even given the revamped 2020 calendar due to coronavirus. He was intially scheduled to defend his title at the Giro d'Italia, but instead was rushed in late to the Tour de France team and then given his own shot at leadership at the Vuelta. In the end, the only Grand Tour he didn't do was the one he'd been preparing for.

The scenes at the finish will be worrying to Vuelta organisers and Spanish authorities, who spent the whole Vuelta making sure that it wasn't going to be a vector for COVID-19 to be further spread. Spain has been averaging about 20,000 cases a day for a few week, but the race had been a success story with no cases reported and little in the way of crowds by the roadside to increase the spread of the disease.