Movistar Team’s new faces for 2017 (1/6)
Ecuador-born cyclist describes his jump into pro racing with Movistar Team and expectations for the future
Richard Carapaz has become the first ever rider from Ecuador to compete for a WorldTour team. In 2017, he will complete his first full season with the Movistar Team, following an opening 20 racing days with the telephone squad in Italy and France last summer, as a trainee. Far from home, a pattern that has repeated itself all over his amateur career.
“I had to put a lot of constance and effort into the task. Go out and make it into the big elite that is the WorldTour is extremely difficult in a country like Ecuador. I love my country, yet it’s sadly a football-focused country – you’ll only get the help you need if you choose that sport. Happily, I had the chance of travelling abroad, riding in CPor fortuna, tuve la oportunidad de viajar, de correr en Colombia y en otros países de América como Argentina, México… en los que vi que tenia buen talento para el ciclismo y busqué explotarlo al máximo. Nunca me dio por vencido, y esa fue la clave para llegar hasta aquí”.
It wasn’t until he had “the chance of joining the Ecuador national team to race here in Spain” before the Movistar Team started realizing about Richard’s potential. “And after my win in the Colombian ‘Vuelta a la Juventud’ (Race of the Youth), the first-ever victory by a foreign rider, Eusebio Unzué, who had already looked for my future plains, proposed me to test my legs for a year in Spain and prove that talent on European turf.”
That’s how the rider from the Carchí region, just next to the Colombian border, joined the Lizarte development team directed by Manolo Azcona and former pro Juan José Oroz in April. The results during that spring were extraordinary: he finished 2nd at the biggest one-day race in Spain, the Memorial Valenciaga – in his first day of racing. Carapaz later went on to win the Urraki hillclimb or the Lazkao Proba in the Basque Country, and completed an impressive run with overall success in the prestigious Vuelta a Navarra, where he showed to be the strongest of all climbers present. His precocious jump into the pro scene was a fact, as he became a ‘stagiaire’ for the Movistar Team in late July.
“My first races in Blue were really difficult. After that opening period with Lizarte, I hadn’t any chance to keep that form in my country. There are no cycling races there, and even though I kept training consciously, it was difficult to make the step right against WorldTour teams on the way back because I had no racing form. Should I have wanted to race, I’d have had to do it in Colombia, which wasn’t possible anymore. I switched my sights towards staying fresh and willing to make those efforts in the late season – I was really aware that what I delivered during those months would be crucial so I could stay with the team.”
He struggled at the Tours de l’Ain (70th) and Limousin (126th), to later find the grip to top racing in Poitou-Charentes (79th) and the Vuelta a Cantabria (10th), the latter back with Lizard for a few days. Yet, it was really at his last stint through Italy where he made evident he was worth a spot in the official roster: he finished as 3rd best young rider in Toscana -going after the moves of the likes of Fabio Aru- and showed courage in the Giro dell’ Emilia and, above all, the Tre Valli Varesine (32nd; he went on to finish 25th in Piamonte days later), where he launched several moves in the finale. Commitment and bravery as the best cover letter he could bring for 2017.
“I really feel like home inside this team, and for this new season I haven’t been really required anything from the management. We’ll try to figure what’s my place into the roster during the year itself.” Richard, however, has clear goals in mind: “I asked to start my season in Mallorca, Andalucía… stageraces where I can really get the feels of what I’d like to excel on as I grow up. Finding a reference for what would be my biggest wish as a pro: racing Grand Tours. My real dream? Winning a Giro d’Italia”. Hope it becomes true!