By Gregor Brown
Richard Carapaz made history to become the first Ecuadorian to win a Grand Tour in the 2019 Giro d'Italia in Verona.
The 26-year-old Movistar rider, born at 2900 meters above sea level in the country's north, defended his pink jersey lead over the final time trial in Verona, cheered in the famous arena by hundreds of Ecuadorians who witnessed history.
"It's true, 21 days ago, no one counted on me as a favourite," he said. "No one believed I could do it. To be here wearing the pink jersey and to have my name on the trophy is just something amazing."
Carapaz was presented with the famous spiral trophy, his name the 102nd winner etched on the golden ribbon.
He donned the pink jersey after the Courmayeur stage, becoming the first Ecuadorian to do so. He defended it through the Alps and Dolomites, and finally during the TT in Verona.
"Now I am the winner of the Giro. I never wanted to say anything that might jinx the win. I knew that anything could happen and until I passed over the final cobblestone here in Verona that the race wasn't won," he added.
"It's something incredible to say now, that I am the winner of a Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia."
His wife and two children were in Italy to join him in the moment, after last year his wife Tania tried to travel to the race ahead of his fourth place finish but was denied a visa.
"When I left my country, they didn't believe in a boy who was going to the Giro d'Italia. I think they didn't know about it until day four when I won my first stage. Then it began to resonate more," he continued.
"I can't imagine how the country is now. I've been concentrating on the Giro. I can't imagine. But there are compatriots who are euphoric, who share my win, who resonate with this. My country must be the same."
He won the fourth stage in Frascati, gained time on the Lago Serrù stage, and won and gained more time on the Courmayeur finish.
In Tulcan, capital of the province of Carchi, they showed the race on a big screen in the main market square. The country began to rally around its new hero.
"I'm full of happiness that all the Ecuadorians have come out, to applaud, to cheer me, to congratulate me.
"I think the country is going crazy. I simply have done something that has given me the opportunity, a gift I have, and I've tried to make the most of it. I've done nothing special.
"We all have something special, a gift. I have a gift, the privilege of being able to compete at the highest level, I've made the most of it and I'm writing history this way."
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