Here at VeloVeritas we rate 21 year-old Englishman Hugh Carthy; not for him a ride with a team where the lingua franca is his native tongue – no sir, Spain’s only Pro Continental team, Caja Rural is who he signed with after his excellent Tour of Korea win for Condor, last season.
He’s had a busy baptism of fire – the pre-season Mallorca races; Ruta del Sol; early season hard man’s races in Belgium and France; the Pais Vasco; Trentino, Beauce, the Volta, a strong ride in Colorado then some good late season form in France and Italy.
Not a bad year for a neo-pro; we thought we’d best have a word with the man…
Some nice late season form in the Tour du Gevuadan, top 10 with Pinot winning from Voeckler – looks like a nippy one, Hugh?
“A nice race with some good riders at the sharp end.
“With shorter stages and a good amount of climbing it suited me well.
“After the Tour of Britain I was a little disappointed to potentially finish the season with a DNF so I was happy to recover from my injury and get a number on my back again and put a good performance in.”
And top 20 in the Giro Dell’Emilia, another good result in a tough race.
“Emilia has been a race that I’ve wanted to compete in for a few years now. The final climb in Bologna and the autumn colours always look beautiful on the telly.
“I didn’t ride Sabatini on the Thursday before in favour of resting for Emilia so I really wanted to perform.
“The conditions were punishing with rain all day.
“There were splits forming on descents and narrow sections of the race and I kept myself at the front most of the day. I was strong when we arrived at the circuit but ran out of legs on the penultimate climb finished 19th.
“I was pleased with how I raced; I wouldn’t have done too much differently but just didn’t have the strength in the last 15km.
“It was still satisfying to get a solid result in the last races of a long season.”
Your early season results look like it took a wee while to find your legs?
“Correct; I had trained well over the winter but in the first few races I seemed to get sick a lot.
“It was both frustrating and disappointing but after a block of big races I started to recover some form again and got my name in the results.”
Nice top 20’s in the Giro dell Appennino and Vuelta Asturias though.
“The team put me Pais Vasco in April which was a real turning point in the season.
“It gave me a lot of confidence and strength in my legs.
“After this I had good results in Trentino, Appennino and Asturias.
“I probably would have had a good result in Vuelta Madrid but I crashed out on stage 1 which put a halt on my season for a few weeks.”
And you rode the famous ‘Philly’ in the US – what was ‘The Wall’ like?
“It was a great circuit with the potential to become a much bigger race. The locals and fans that were spectating really enjoyed the race.
“For the team it was a good result with Carlos Barbero taking the win but personally I felt disappointed.
“After my crash in Vuelta Madrid I was forced to take a couple of weeks off the bike to recover so lacked the form I’d had before.
“It was the same story in Beauce.
“It was the smallest race of my season yet in some ways my worst personal performance.
“Despite that it was good experience that’s helped me progress.”
The Volta a Portugal – is it still as crazy out of control as ever?
“I wouldn’t say it’s out of control but the Portuguese riders are certainly very strong. They very much have their own scene and don’t race much outside of Portugal so it’s a surprise to see riders you’ve not heard much about winning.
“It’s a very important race for the Portuguese riders, a lot of TV coverage, good prize money and contracts on the line.
“The second half of the race was OK for me.
“A couple of days before the start a team mate and I got food poisoning at the Klasika Ordizia so the first few days in Portugal I was just surviving and saving as much energy as possible.”
Top 10 with a third place on a stage in Colorado – strong rides at altitude.
“Probably my stand out ride of the season.
“After some disappointment during the season it was nice for things to come together I could show what I’m capable of.”
But the Tour of Britain didn’t go your way – again…
“I picked up an injury in my Achilles after the second stage. I struggled through a few days before it became too much.”
68 UCI race days for you – too many or about right?
“Actually 69 race days as of yesterday with the Bruno Beghelli – about right I’d say.
“In the early part of the season there were a few races where I either didn’t finish or start so that figure isn’t 100% accurate. I’ve had a lot of racing but I’ve always tried to rest well and train according to my body between races so that I don’t over-do it.
“I think finishing the season with some strong results shows I’ve coped quite well.”
How has acceptance been with the other Caja riders?
“The team has been great. It’s common to hear horror stories about young British riders joining foreign teams. I made a real effort to learn Spanish quickly at the start of the year which helped me fit in.
“Since then I’ve had a few good results here and there and showed promise which helps people accept and understand you better too. That’s not to say the year has been without ups and downs but I’ve learned how to deal with problems and grown up and matured a lot this year.”
And how has guidance been from management?
“The management have been good.
“They haven’t put a lot of pressure on me in races but when I have performed they’ve supported me 100%.
“I’ve had everything I need this year – a good programme, equipment, transport to races etc so I can’t complain about much at all.
“The older riders have been good to learn from too; they never seem flustered or panicked on and off the bike.”
What are the Fuji’s like – do you ride the Q rings?
“The bikes and equipment have been reliable all year.
“I’ve not had an issue with any of the components during the entire season which is very important.
“I have used the traditional round chain rings this year but I might give the “Q Rings” a try this winter.”
Where’s ‘home’ in Spain?
“I’ve been living in the team house in Pamplona this year which has fine.
“Next year I’ll probably start renting my own place in Spain.
“I haven’t decided exactly where yet but it will probably be either in Pamplona or somewhere closer to Bilbao in the Basque Country.”
Are you enjoying cooking with those Spanish ingredients?
“Yes I enjoy cooking very much, but I try and keep most of the ingredients healthy during the racing season. The food in Spain is great and good value compared to a lot of places in the UK these days.
Occasionally I’ll eat out as a treat, but not very often. In the north of Spain, there are delicious small snacks called Pintxos in every bar. These are a really nice treat every now and again.
“I went out in Pamplona this afternoon with a teammate for a few Pintxos and a caña (glass of beer) as an end of season reward.”
Sum up season 2015 for us, please.
“A season of ups and downs.
“I have learned a lot and have finished the season a better and stronger rider than when I started in January.”
And 2016 will be good, if…
“I have a few of my own personal targets.
“First and foremost, I must have a good winter of training and maintain good health.”
With thanks to Hugh for his time and wishing him ‘all the best’ for season 2016 – we think we’ll be hearing a lot more of him.
Images courtesy of Team Caja Rural – Seguros RGA.