Englishman Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) took his first Grand Tour win on Stage 12 of La Vuelta a España yesterday, attacking just outside the final kilometer of the legendary Alto de l’Angliru, soloing to the finish in a fantastic display of measured, determined riding. We spoke to Hugh a few years ago when he signed for Spanish Pro Continental squad Caja Rural Seguros RGA, and it’s interesting to look back and read what Hugh had to say just four short years ago…
* * *
Hugh Carthy first caught our eye when he won the Tour of Korea for Rapha Condor JLT in 2014 and impressed us even more when he dismissed the ‘soft option’ of racing as a UK based pro and signed for season 2015 with Spanish Pro Continental squad Caja Rural Seguros RGA, who he continues to ride for in 2016.
The 21 year-old took ninth overall in the USA Pro Challenge (aka Tour of Colorado) last year but at the weekend past took his finest results yet, winning the Young Rider classification ahead of Cannondale’s Davide Formolo (already a Giro stage winner) in the Volta Ciclista Catalunya and finishing ninth overall in a field which would have done justice to any Grand Tour, including Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, Dan Martin, Richie Porte and Romain Bardet – Rigoberto Uran was one place behind Carthy in 10th spot.
Hugh took time the day after the finish in Barcelona to tell VeloVeritas about his sparkling rides…
Great ride, Hugh – did you have ‘protected’ status going in to the Volta?
“Not at all. The team doesn’t really work like that. We rarely arrive at a stage race with one goal.
“There were a few riders who were capable having success in the general classification, a couple of riders for the flatter days and a couple of riders for the breakaways.”
Barbero seems like not a bad sprinter for your team, does he get ‘protected?’
“Yes, Carlos is a fast sprinter who can also get over climbs close to the finish.
“On days that suit him, normally a couple of riders who aren’t chasing the GC help him out in the finale and make sure he’s ok during the stage.”
As a climber, what’s the drill for those hairy finales in Stages One and Two which Bouhanni won?
“You’ve got to be prepared to push a little and fight for position and stay out of trouble.
“I can be a little bit timid in those situations sometimes and it’s something I’m improving at.
“With age and experience I’m gaining more confidence to stay nearer to the front.”
La Molina, Stage Three and you were right there with the ‘Bigs’ – were you surprised by your form?
“I knew I was in good shape. In the weeks leading up to the race I’d been taking care of training and my diet really well. I entered the race healthy and confident and the first couple of stages I didn’t lose any time, so I really had a good opportunity to find a high placing in GC in the mountains.
“The first time we climbed Molina I felt good, I was in control and didn’t seem to be fading.
“The second time up was the same, I was suffering but I knew I had enough in the tank to make it to the finish in a good position.
“When the attacks started in the final kilometre I couldn’t go with the initial accelerations but eventually I found a good rhythm and finished in the top 10.”
Did you get the team behind you after Stage Three?
“Yes, I was just outside the top 10 and within touching distance of the white jersey.
“The team pulled together and helped me out when necessary, fetching drinks, food etc.
“It was a real pleasure to be the protected rider from this point.
“There are some accomplished riders on the team like [David] Arroyo and [Sergio] Pardilla and for them to be working for me for last few stages was a nice experience.”
Stage Four was another tough one, were you content with 11th spot?
“Yes, very happy. I started the final long climb in a good position and feeling strong.
“The pace was fairly steady for the first half of the climb then the attacks stared.
“In the final few kilometres I was really suffering but found a little group with Martin, Bardet and Zakarin.
“I hung onto them for as long as possible but they surged in the final kilometre and I had to ride on my own to the finish.
“It was a successful day; I moved into the top 10 on GC and took over the young rider jersey by a good margin.”
Stage Five which Poels won, how was it?
“It was a stage that looked quite straight forward on paper but the nature of the exposed roads and long straights made it a nervous day. Luckily, there wasn’t much wind to split the race but the team helped me stay up front and sheltered all day.
“Over the final climb the pace ramped up but again I was strong enough to cover a few moves and stay with the leaders over the top.
“There was a regrouping on the descent and a tricky finale but I safely arrived in the main group in the same time as my rivals.”
Stage Six, Cimolai won – that finale looked mad!
“Like the previous stage, it was more difficult than it looked.
“The first hour or so of racing was difficult, the whole bunch in one long line. Then a strong breeze kept everyone a little nervous. A few times the head of the race split but I was attentive and never missed anything.
“The finale was straightforward apart from a few un-marshalled turns. Again, I arrived in the lead group with little drama.”
Stage Seven on Montjuic – that looked hectic…
“There were two finish lines for me on this stage; the first on entering the circuit and then the actual finish.
“There was a lot of fighting to be first into the circuit, but with the help of my team mates I got there in the first few.
“After that the attacks started and the pace was high.
“I stayed up front and followed the right moves when my close rivals attacked.
“On the final few laps Rodriguez of Katusha attacked and got a good advantage but my team mates helped neutralise the gap a little.
“After that, the speed of the final lap kept any attacks at bay and brought anyone out front back into the fold.”
Did you get a chance to have a wee celebration in Barcelona after the race?
“No, we drove straight back to Pamplona once I’d showered and changed on the bus.
“We made it back by 7:30pm, so I went out for a quiet meal to enjoy the moment (and partly because I didn’t have any food in my flat).”
How did your winter preparation go?
“It went very well.
“I set out a plan of how I wanted the winter to go with my coach in October and barely missed a training session.
“I wanted the start the season in good condition and not waste any race days catching up.”
The early Mallorcan races, 14th and 18th places – not a bad start to the year?
“My objective was to start the season how I’d finished the season before with some good solid results.
“I knew with more racing and appropriate rest I’d get stronger.”
The Ruta del Sol – were you happy with how you went?
“I caught a cold a few days before so I was a bit tired and lethargic for the race.
“By the time trial I was feeling better and the final stage I had a go on the final mountain top, but the illness had just taken the edge off my form.
“I was pleased to make it through a tough race and knew with some rest and retraining, I’d be good for Catalunya.”
You rode La Drôme, that’s a ‘grippy’ race…
“It’s a long day out, with relentless explosive climbs.
“I was in the front group towards the end and did a bit of work for a team mate who was hoping to do well, but a crash at the base of the final climb scuppered his chances.
“It was a tough race and a good one to get in the legs.”
Do you have a wee rest now, and what’s next?
“I’ll have a bit of a rest this week.
“I’ve got GP Miguel Yndurain [in which Hugh finished a superb 8th, yesterday. editor] and the Vuelta Rioja the following day; the weekend after that I ride Amorebieta – then a few lower key races that are important for the team.
“My next objective is Giro del Trentino. I did well there last year and have ambitions to do better this year.”
Has the Vuelta been mentioned by management?
“There has been no mention of it so far.
“It’s still a long way off and a lot can happen between now and then.
“My results so far this season can’t hurt my chances of selection but I’m still very young and a three week race is a big challenge for somebody my age.
“I’ll take each race at a time and see what happens.”