Hugh Carthy
Hugh Carthy.

If you’re my age then you’ll remember Basque climbing legend, Marino Lejarreta in the colours of Caja Rural back in the 80’s. The name has been associated with Spanish cycle sport off and on since then and season 2015 will see an English name alongside the likes of Amets Txurruka in Spain’s only Pro Continental team. The win of Hugh Carthy in the UCI Tour of Korea has catapulted the 20 year-old from Lancashire into the big leagues after two seasons with John Herety at Rapha Condor JLT.

Hugh took time to talk to VeloVeritas about his cosmopolitan 2014 season and the challenges he faces in 2015…

You started 2014 early and a long ways from home in The Sun Tour, what was it like in the heat coming from grey old GB?

“In 2014 it wasn’t too bad.

“Having spent a long time in Australia the previous year and racing in other hot countries throughout 2013, I found it easier to cope with the heat.

“The first time I visited Australia at the beginning of 2013, we were immediately thrown into the Bay Criteriums, which I remember being a real struggle.”

Then South Africa and sixth in the Mzansi Tour, what’s the SA race scene like?

“It was the second time I have raced the Mzansi Tour and it’s a great event that I really enjoy.

“The race is very well represented with new, up and coming African teams and riders which is good to see.

“The stages are never boring and the weather can be unpredictable in the mountains making for a great race.”

The Azerbaijan Tour next – sounds pretty exotic and mountainous?

“Azerbaijan was interesting to say the least.

“It’s a beautiful country with great terrain.

“The locals seemed quite friendly, although their driving left a lot to be desired!

“The race was hard – it was a tough field with some hard stages.

“I made a few errors in the first couple of stages, so I was out of overall contention for the rest of the race.

“The last stage through Baku’s Old Town was pretty cool; it was like Azerbaijan’s very own version of the Lincoln Grand Prix with a steep, twisty cobbled climb!”

Then Japan – sixth was a nice performance; what’s the Japanese race scene like?

“Cycling is huge in Japan these days. The Japanese fans were something else.

“They loved the quintessential British brands of Rapha and Condor and treated us like royalty.

“Out of all the races I did this season Japan was probably my favourite. I loved the country, the people and the race suited me too.

“It was probably my results in Japan that gave me the confidence I needed for the rest of the season.”

Hugh Carthy
Hugh on the top step at the Tour de Korea. Photo©Aaron Lee

Korea, a great result – tell us about it, please.

“Korea went perfectly really.

“I didn’t lose time on any stages and managed to gain a few seconds here and there throughout the race, before taking a bigger chunk of time on the Mountain top finish.

“As a team, we worked really well too which was great. Richard (Handley) was in yellow for a day early on but lost the jersey the following day due to a very unlucky puncture.

“It happened on a fast descent in a select group that had formed on the previous climb, so at that point there were no following team cars.

“It was disappointing for all of us, so I was glad that I could step up and regain control of the race for the team.”

It’s said that Asian racing is a lot different to European; much less controlled – what’s your take?

“Correct – in Europe you may have attacking for the first hour or so, but in Asia you have attacking all day.

“It’s quite difficult to know which particular move is going to stick so you’ve got to be on the ball.

“A small breakaway might form and riders will bridge across to it one by one and before you know it there’s a forty man group away never to be seen again!”

The Kreiz Breizh came after Japan – that’s a pretty tough one, I believe?

“I had never previously raced in Brittany so I didn’t know what to expect. The roads were surprisingly tough; constantly up or down, never flat.

“After Korea and the Nationals I had been ill for a couple of weeks and then I rushed back to training a little too soon, so my form wasn’t good coming into Kreiz Breizh.

“I simply wanted to get through the race and rebuild some fitness for the second half of the season.”

Hugh Carthy
Hugh hammers it out at the USA Pro Champs. Photo©Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

How did your system cope with the altitude in Colorado?

“Having never raced at altitude before I was a little uneasy going into the race.

“We arrived in Colorado a week before the race with time to acclimatise and some of us used altitude tents for a few weeks too, but when we started racing most of us didn’t cope too well.

“I felt fine on the longer climbs but the shorter, steeper climbs I just wasn’t at the required level.

“When racing against a world class field, you’ve got to be on the top of your game, so it was a shame to be slightly under par.”

You were DNF in the Tour of Britain, why?

“It’s quite a short story, actually!

“I was clipped by a motorbike on Stage 2 and knocked off, breaking my collarbone.

“The most annoying thing about it was that I crashed out on Stage Two last year breaking my ribs, so I’ve never finished an edition of the Tour of Britain yet!”

How did you get into cycling?

“My Dad is a lifelong cyclist, so I grew up around bikes in every room of the house and a coffee table full of cycling magazines.

“I used to ride on at the local club run every Sunday and head out in the evenings after school; whenever I could really.

“I began racing in 2002, aged seven and haven’t stopped since!”

Which ride(s) got you the Condor ride?

“I performed quite consistently as a junior but in my second year I won the Junior Tour of Wales and a stage race in America.

“A guy named Peter Kay from the North West of England has taken juniors to Europe racing for years and he took me and a few others to various races.

“I got a few good results here and there and he told John Herety about me.”

Rapha Condor JLT – did you have a mentor on the team?

“Obviously John’s very experienced as a DS, so I have learned a lot from him, but because there’s no race radios these days it’s hard for him to correct our mistakes during a race, so Kristian House gives us a lot of advice on the road.

“He’s very experienced and will always tell you if you make an error.

“Other than that, Richard Handley is very good tactically too and is a good person to go to for advice.”

Hugh Carthy
Hugh has enjoyed being part of the Rapha Condor JLT setup. Photo©Aaron Lee

How did the Caja Rural ride come about?

“It all happened quite quickly really. I won the Tour of Korea in mid June and was contacted by the team a couple of weeks later.

“After that, I traveled to Spain in July to meet the management and signed a contract there and then.”

Where and when’s the first get together?

“The first get together is this coming Thursday in Pamplona.”

Have you had any clues about your race programme, yet?

“I’ve not heard much about a race programme yet. I’ll get a better idea when we meet up.

“We will get a proper race programme in January at the official training camp.”

Where’s ‘home’ going to be for 2015?

“I’ll definitely move to Spain.

“The team have accommodation in a small town in the mountains near Pamplona and there will be other young riders on the team based there too, so it is likely that I will move there.”

Have you started learning Spanish, yet?

“I studied Spanish at school for a few years so I knew some of the basics.

“I’ve hired a Spanish tutor who I see every week.

“It’s coming along OK, but I think I’ll learn the most when I start living there and interacting with Spanish people and team mates on a daily basis.”

How much winter break will you have and when do you start your preparation?

“I finished my break a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t touch my bike for a while.

“That was partly because I couldn’t due to my collarbone. I feel well rested and motivated.

“I’m not doing too much at the minute, a couple of hours most days.

“I’ll increase the volume in a couple of weeks.”

Hugh Carthy
Hugh racing in Japan at the start of the season. Photo©Tom Southam/CycleTechReview

Do you have a coach or will the team provide advice on training?

“I’ve worked with Ken Matheson for a couple of years now.

“He coaches quite a few Rapha-Condor JLT riders.

“I think we work well together, so for the time being I will continue to work with him.”

Season 2015 will be a good one, if…?

“Next year is going to be a tough season for me.

“I don’t have any specific goals at this stage.

“If I learn from every race and I am consistent throughout the year then I’ll be happy.

“Also, developing myself off the bike will be important too, things like learning Spanish and integrating into Spanish culture properly.”

Are you going to miss John Herety’s cooking?

“Yes!

“Whilst out in Australia he did a lot of the cooking so we ate like Kings most evenings!

“I’m quite into cooking myself, so I really appreciate good food.”