Richard Carapaz closes his eyes and kisses the yellow jersey he's wearing during the podium ceremony after stage 3 of the 2024 Tour de France.

How EF Education-EasyPost pulled off their yellow jersey heist

A plan executed to perfection to help Richard Carapaz trump Remco Evenepoel.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 01.07.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images and Cor Vos
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Torino, IT – After proving he could still do it, perhaps comforted by the feeling of the race lead on his shoulders after a near-two-year hiatus, Tadej Pogačar was ready to return his rented yellow jersey to the Tour de France with a view to an earlier bedtime with fewer post-race obligations as well as less of an onus for his UAE Team Emirates squad to pull the bunch along up to the first proper GC showdown up the Galibier tomorrow.

With Pogačar, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step), Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) all on the same time at the top of the general classification (in that order), it meant the yellow jersey would be decided on the day’s stage placings.

As we walked towards the buses from the press room with 20 km to go, after a long drive across Italy as we finally head towards France, lulled into a false sense of security by a 230 km stage barely resembling a race for the majority, we see EF Education-EasyPost staff charging the other way towards the finish line, including staff members who wouldn’t necessarily head that way normally. We asked, “are you guys going for it?” The lack of a straight answer told us they were.

Richard Carapaz smiles and punches the air after stage three of the 2024 Tour de France.

But still, there was former world champion and white jersey Remco Evenepoel to deal with. EF’s distinctive pink kits amassed at the front of the bunch.

“We knew it was going to come down to placings, so we basically just tried to lead Richie out for a sprint,” Neilson Powless told Escape Collective afterwards. “It was a really hectic finish, it was just a washing machine in the whole last 15 km, but we just always tried to have someone behind and in front of Richie, and sort of [keep] eyes on Remco to know where he was. In the end with 4 km to go we still had four of five riders around Richie and I think Remco was losing some positions and then there was a crash and luckily we were in front of it; we knew that was a possibility so we just tried to stay at the front the whole time.”

That crash also held up Jonas Vingegaard, who calmly rode in, the traditional 3 km race-incident safety rule moved back to 5 km for the first time today, yet the half-expected crash still occurred with 2.5 km to go. That meant with Pogačar likely to ease off somewhat into the finish, Evenepoel was the only risk to a smash-and-grab of the yellow jersey.

“I think things already started to go south for them when they lost one of their riders in a roundabout and sort of threw them all off pace a little bit,” Powless continued, “but we could see Remco just trying to stick to the wheel of our team. I think he could see we were pretty well organised. In the end we’re just super happy with it. Richie was able to do a good sprint and finish far enough in front of Remco to take the jersey.” [Casper Pedersen was the affected Soudal rider, and will not start stage 4 after suffering a broken collarbone. – Ed.]

As Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) took an historic stage win, the rest of the field passes by in a blur before the camera cuts to a close-up of the victor. The official results eventually dripped through, which must have felt like a lifetime for Carapaz and his team. They needed to beat Evenepoel by 12 places to secure a race lead that the young Belgian would have also been keen to capture, a first taste of what he one day hopes to carry to Paris.

Richard Carapaz finishes stage three of the 2024 Tour de France.
Carapaz (back right)

Carapaz came across the line in 14th. Finally the news came: Evenepoel was 40th. He’d done it. Ben Healy arrived back at the bus to high-fives, Alberto Bettiol was congratulated for his monster pull in the finale by his fairly emotional sports director Charly Wegelius.

The plan had been discussed in the bus at the start of the day. “I think it’s a long race and I think there’s going to be opportunities for him to take the jersey [later on],” Powless explained. “And I think if somebody else can do the work for them they’re also happy with that.”

Contrary to the reports from within the EF camp, Remco Evenepoel told Het Laatste Nieuws after the stage he wasn’t after the yellow jersey. Hmm …

“Entering safely was the only thing that mattered,” Evenepoel said. “I didn’t think about the yellow jersey.”

Evenepoel finishes stage three of the Tour de France 2024.
A glimpse of what could have been to Evenepoel’s left …

With the Galibier tomorrow and GC fireworks expected pretty much whenever the race heads moderately uphill in this day and age, Carapaz will fight to try and keep it, but one day in yellow is more than most experience in their career. It’s a welcome achievement for a rider who’s battled up and down form this season and unsuccessfully campaigned for selection for Ecuador’s lone start spot in the Olympic road race, where he is defending champion.

“This success means a lot to me,” Carapaz said at the press conference, yet to arrive back at his team bus where a crowd of Ecuadorian fans were waiting, the skies darkening under an incoming storm that to them didn’t exist no matter how real it was.

“I have worked a lot to come to this point and it means the world. The same for the country because there are very few of us in cycling … we knew this was a dangerous day, the first sprint in this Tour de France. Everyone would be very nervous,” and only a perfectly-executed plan would be able to pull it off.

“As for tomorrow’s stage,” he continued, aware of the likely temporary nature of his time in yellow, “we know it’s going to be a very hard stage but we’ll try our best to defend this yellow jersey and of course enjoy it,” before dedicating it to family who like many others in the peloton have sacrificed a lot for these glimpses of glory.

Two years ago, he took the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey in Turin, and now adds a yellow jersey from the same city to create a niche yet satisfying answer to a future cycling-themed pub quiz question.

More importantly, Carapaz now goes down in history as a wearer of the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, the first-ever Ecuadorian, marking them as the 26th different country to claim one. Like Girmay, this is a victory bigger than him and bigger than his team. A continuation of the Tour’s globalisation, to reach and inspire bike racers far away from France that with the legs and a cunning plan, anything is possible.

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