From Gold to Yellow

Richard Carapaz – the reigning Olympic Road Race gold medalist – rides his LAB71 SuperSix EVO to the most coveted place in professional road cycling: the lead of the Tour de France.

Two-time Ecuadorian Time Trial champion. 2019 Giro d’Italia champion. 2020 Olympic Road Race gold medalist. Only professional cyclist in history with an Olympic championship and a podium finish in all major Grand Tours.

And these are only the highlights. Writing out Richard Carapaz’s accomplishments on a bike would be a feat of athleticism in itself.

And today, that list gets a little bit longer: After Stage 3 of the 2024 Tour de France, Richie claims the race leader’s famous maillot jaune, or yellow jersey – arguably the most iconic achievement in professional road cycling.

This year’s tour began with a bang – a hot, humid, hilly, grueling bang. Florence, Italy, was the start of Stage 1, kicking off 206 kilometers (128 miles) and 3600 meters (11,811 feet) of climbing to Rimini, during which temperatures hovered close to 38ºC (100ºF). The press called it perhaps the most challenging opening stage of the Tour ever. Legends of the peloton were visibly suffering. But Richie's exceptional endurance had him cross the line 22nd out of 176 riders – and only five seconds behind the stage’s winner.

Stage 2 continued the heat and the hills. Carapaz stayed calm, focused, and within striking distance of the general classification favorites all day. By the time that group approached the line, it was a bunch sprint for mere seconds over one another, with the “winner” taking only tenth place on the day, but likely to claim the yellow jersey. Richie pulled off a superhuman sprint and crossed the line first of the GC contenders, but just shy of the necessary margin. He effectively tied for tenth, tying the Tour's leaders, and landing himself in fourth place overall.

By the time the sun came up the next day in Piacenza, the scent of yellow must have been wafting around the EF Education First–EasyPost team bus. Over Stage 3’s 230 kilometers (143 miles), Richie doggedly fought to stay up front. The relatively flat course favored the raw horsepower of the peloton’s more muscular sprinters, but light and lithe Carapaz jostled shoulder-to-shoulder with them as an equal, not an imposter. He crossed the finish line in the final bunch sprint 14th on the day – and for the first time in his career, as the leader of the Tour de France.

EF Education First–EasyPost currently rides their LAB71 SuperSix EVOs in a collective seventh place in the Tour’s team standings, with their roster of national champions – including Carapaz, Sean Quinn (USA), Rui Costa (Portugal), and Alberto Bettiol (Italy) – and other phenoms holding a steadily intense pace until now. With a yellow jersey to protect, however, tactics may shift. 

“You really do have to look under every rock in the Tour to get results. You can't just play it safe,” said Charly Wegelius, Sports Director for EF Education First–EasyPost. “Today was one of those chances. We looked at the rule book. We looked at the gaps... We made the plan based around that, knowing that it was a long shot and that it depended on a lot of external factors that we couldn't control. We had some good engines for it. It was a real team effort and it's nice that it paid off.”

“The yellow jersey is one of the strongest symbols in cycling,” he continued. “It's a huge honor for the team and for Richie to have it, and we're going to make the most of it.”

“I worked so hard for this moment. It also means a lot to my country. There are not a lot of [Ecuadorians] in the World Tour and I hope this helps cycling so it can grow in my country,” said Carapaz, after becoming the first Ecuadorian ever to wear the maillot jaune. "Tomorrow is a very hard day. It’s a very hard one to defend the jersey but I will try.”

Allez, Richie. Allez, allez, allez.