When we think about bicycle racers from South America, we mostly think of Colombians — the country has, after all, produced a number of famous climbers. Venezuela might ring a bell for some of us too, but a serious contender from Ecuador? You might take a while to come up with a name from this South American country. Luckily we’re giving you the pub-quiz answer with the low-down on Richard Carapaz.

A serious talent

Richard Carapaz is a 25-year-old professional cyclist from the town of El Carmelo in Ecuador. He began to ride for a small Colombian team in 2016, and caught the eye of the Spanish Movistar team. Soon afterwards he was given an internship at the team, to show what he could do. In that first year it was more about learning the ropes than anything else, and Carapaz entered races primarily as a support rider in order to get experience. He did well in the Giro della Toscana, winning third place in the young riders’ classification, and this meant he earned the right to stay at Movistar.

Richard Carapaz

Carapaz in La Vuelta ciclista a Espana 2017. Photograph: Cor Vos.

In his second year, Carapaz was allowed to ride some of the major races and show what he was really capable of. He rode the Tour of Romandie, the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, the Criterium Dauphiné and the Clasica San Sebastian. He did particularly well in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, winning fourth place in the general classification, and at the end of the season he stepped up to ride in the Tour of Spain. He rode primarily in a support role, as a domestique, and he finished the race without entering the top ten in any of the stages.

Richard Carapaz

Carapaz in the Tour of Spain 2017. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Richard Carapaz is showing promise and progression. Initially he looked like a rider who would take his time before becoming a serious contender. But in the 2018 season he surprised us. He rode well in the Paris–Nice with an 11th place in the general classification, and then went on to win the three-day race Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo. He was then ready to ride in the Giro d’Italia, the second major race of his career.

Richard Carapaz

Caparpaz (right) working hard for Nairo Quintana (left). Photograph: Cor Vos.

Breakthrough in the Giro

Carapaz crossed the line seventh in the first serious mountain stage of the Giro, which scaled the flanks of Mount Etna. And a couple of days later he won! His victory in the eighth stage on the Montevergine di Mercogliano was the biggest victory in his career so far. He continued to ride well during the 2018 Giro: during the 19th stage, when Chris Froome won the pink leader’s jersey, he was in second place. He managed to an impressive fourth overall in the general classification, and second in the young riders’ class. From that moment on, it became clear that we will have to keep an eye on this very talented young rider.

Richard Carapaz

Stage victory for Carapaz in the 2018 Giro d’Italia. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Carapaz nevertheless has a lot to learn. He didn’t figure at all in the results of the Tour of Spain 2018. But that is allowed, considering that he’s still young. Still, it’s not a crazy thought to consider that in a couple of years he may well climb the podium of a Grand Tour, and make the people of Ecuador very proud with his achievement.