Richard Carapaz is the Ecuadorian national champion
Alexander Cepeda finishes third after working in the breakaway
In his debut race in pink, Richard Carapaz won the Ecuadorian road race national championship today, taking his first elite road title.
Richard’s win caps off a successful weekend of racing for EF Education-EasyPost at the national championships in Tulcán, Ecuador. Racing alongside him in the road race today were teammates Alexander Cepeda and Jonathan Caicedo. Both Alexander and Jonathan raced the time trial national championships just the day before, with Jonathan earning his third national title in the race against the clock and Alexander taking third place.
"It’s my first race of the year," Richard said. "The truth is it’s very special for me because I get to ride in my country, I get to ride in my hometown. For me, more than just a win, it’s an emotional win because I remember racing on these streets, these are the streets I grew up on so in this sense it’s a poignant win."
Composed of ten laps around the northern city of Tulcán, today’s road race totaled just shy of 180 kilometers of racing. The first two laps averaged 43 kilometers per hour, showing just how competitive this race would be.
Twenty minutes into the day, a break had formed with all three of our riders — Richard, Alexander, and Jonathan. Just one day after winning the time trial national championship, Jonathan drove the early attack which allowed the break to open a gap on the chasers.
"The tactic was clear from the beginning," Jonathan said. "Get rid of as many riders as possible, and that made the perfect set up for Richard."
“The work that Jonathan and Alexander put in was really important," Richard said. "We met in the morning just before the start. We met and we had this objective. They knew my intention was to win and on top of this we talked about having two of us on the podium and how great that would be. Yesterday they achieved this by winning gold and bronze."
"This really was a win by the whole team."
“After yesterday, I got a bit punished by the big efforts in the front group,” Jonathan said. “The tactic was for Richard to win so we had a big job. From the beginning on, the race was pretty fast and very hard, and my power didn't let me go with the other three riders. I retired from the race after that, as I saw that my job for the day was done, which was to give Richard the best option for the win.”
After just one hour of racing, the break had set such a punishing pace that the peloton behind was in tatters. As the laps ticked by, the break shed riders. By the seventh lap, just three riders remained, including Richard and Alexander. While their advantage grew and shrank over the ensuing hours, the leaders were able to stay away with Alexander spending significant time in the wind to protect Richard.
"The tactic was clear from the beginning. Get rid of as many riders as possible, and that made the perfect set up for Richard."
On the tenth and final lap, with just a few kilometers remaining, Richard sensed it was time to attack. Lifting the already punishing pace, Richard accelerated, riding away from his two breakaway companions and quickly opening a gap. A win for the Olympic champion was not guaranteed, however, as a rider from the break put in an effort to chase down Richard in the finishing straight. In an effort worthy of a champion, Richard held off his competitor and raised a fist in celebration only after he had crossed the line first and earned the title of Ecuadorian national champion.
"Today they did a spectacular job. Caicedo handled the first part of the race really well and that means so much to me. Later with Alexander in the final break, he did great work. This really was a win by the whole team,” Richard said.
Reflecting on the off season, Richard sees today's performance as a step in the right direction for the year.
"Today’s win gives us a sign that we’re working well and that we’re doing the hard work," he said. "This was one of the harder off seasons that I’ve had because there were a lot of complications. There was the operation on my tonsils, so I started everything later. Honestly, I’m really happy because now we can enjoy all that we’ve done. Getting to wear such a beautiful jersey in front of the world is really special."
Congratulations to Richard, Jonathan, and Alexander for an incredible weekend of racing in Ecuador. We are so proud of your hard work.