By Gregor Brown
With only two mountain days and a time trial left, riders have revealed who they believe will win the 2019 Giro d'Italia in Verona.
Richard Carapaz (Movistar) – the first Ecuadorian rider to wear the pink jersey – leads the race. He has 1-54 minutes on two-time race winner, Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 2-16 on Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), fourth last year in the Tour de France. Mikel Landa, Carapaz's team-mate, sits fourth overall at 3-03.
"I think Richard Carapaz because he is the strongest on the climbs," Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) told Cycling Weekly.
"They have the strongest team, if they can put one or two guys in the break then they still have five guys left in the final two climbs. Landa won't be dropped and then they had that third guy, who was there on the Mortirolo [Antonio Pedrero] and probably José Joaquín Rojas and Andrey Amador are in the break, so they still have five guys on the final two climbs. As a team they are the strongest and as a climber, he is the strongest here."
American Chad Haga, who began to race for Sunweb leader Tom Dumoulin, stood on the start line and nodded toward the front where the classification men lined. "I'll say Carapaz," Haga explained. "He just hasn't shown any weakness yet."
Dumoulin crashed and abandoned the race on stage five. Team Ineos never even raced with leader Egan Bernal, who crashed and broke his collarbone a week before the race. Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart led the team, the latter who abandoned after a crash mid-race.
"I don't know," Sivakov said. "It's going to be interesting for everyone to see. It's really open, that's why the Giro is such a nice race. Until the last day, you don't know who will win it."
"For how he's going, Carapaz," Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates). "He's going strongly. On the climbs, he's the strongest. Then the second last stage, anything can happen."
The penultimate stage climbs several passes through the Dolomites before the summit finish on Monte Avena. The riders must climb 4,000 metres or 19,000 feet in the stage, before a 17km time trial stage to the Verona Arena ends the Giro on Sunday.
"Obviously at the moment, Movistar is the strongest team the way they control all the stages and breakaways is very impressive," Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) said.
"My guess would be Carapaz, but it probably depends on his last time trial. With the advantage that he has right now, he should be able to hold on.
"Primož, for sure!" said Roglič's helper, American Sepp Kuss. "He's still really positive, he's got the health and injuries behind him. He can still win this race, absolutely, I think stage 20 will especially be really tough and he has the last time trial to bank on."
Long-time team manager Gianni Savio walked through the start village to shake hands with journalists and Giro staff as he does every morning. Despite 30-some years experience, he does not know who will hold the spiral trophy high on Sunday.
"How can I respond? How can I say that now? It's difficult," explained Savio.
"It's come down to a tight battle battle between three or maybe two, but it's hard to pick a winner. The two strongest are Carapaz and Nibali, but attention, cycling is fascinating because it's unpredictable."
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