Hugh Carthy has been backed to produce the time trial of his life at the Vuelta a Espana on Tuesday and keep himself in contention for what would be a second shock grand tour win by a British rider in the space of two weeks.
After Tao Geoghegan Hart’s hugely unexpected Giro d’Italia victory 10 days ago, 26-year-old Carthy now has an opportunity to write his name into cycling’s history books. The Prestonian won the Vuelta’s queen stage on the fearsome Angliru on Sunday to propel himself up the general classification.
Carthy, who rides for American team EF Pro Cycling, currently sits third on GC, 32 seconds behind race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and 22 seconds adrift of race favourite Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), heading into Tuesday’s 33.7km effort against the clock from Muros to Mirador de Ezaro Dumbria in La Coruna.
And while Carthy is not known for his time-trial skills, his former mentor at Rapha-Condor believes the lanky 6ft4in rider should not be underestimated. “A lot of people don’t seem to realise it, and it surprised me at first, but he can do a really good time trial,” John Herety told Cycling Weekly on Monday, citing Carthy’s performance in last year’s ITT at the Giro d’Italia. “It had a very similar profile to the Vuelta’s TT on Tuesday and Hugh finished eighth, 1-30 down from Roglic [and 25 seconds up on Carapaz]
“Now Roglic should be the best again tomorrow, but to be in the top 10 in a grand tour time trial is pretty impressive.
“It was unusual for a junior of his build to be a good time trialist – and it’s still unusual now – but he can put out good power on a flat. As a junior, he would record 19-minute 10 mile TTs.
“At the end of the day, the riders that can climb and time trial make the best riders. As a young kid, one of his mentors was Randy Allsopp who was a time trialling legend in the north.
“He really helped Hugh, and Hugh was a classic club cyclist doing his club 10s. He grew up in the time trialling scene.”
Carthy has never finished in the top 10 of a grand tour but served notice of his grand tour prowess with an 11th place finish at last year’s Giro. He was also prominent at this year’s Tour de France, helping Colombian team-mate Dani Martinez to a win on stage 13.
If Carthy can produce a good effort in the Race of Truth on Tuesday, he must then negotiate a few lumpy days which could well feature crosswinds before Saturday’s final GC test to the summit of the Covatilla; a brutal stage which could see major time losses.
“He’s an out-and-out climber and he’s proving in this Vuelta that he can put it together consistently in a three-week stage race,” Herety said. “He can ride in crosswinds, too. He really can. This Vuelta has a terrain that really suits him and he can keep this up.”
Bradley Wiggins agreed. “He’s been threatening for a long time since that Giro last year,” Wiggins told Eurosport. “His mindset is what we love about bike riders. You couldn’t get much bigger than a win on the Angliru at the Vuelta. We’re thinking, could this guy repeat what Tao [Geoghegan Hart] did? He’s never frightened to have a go.
Wiggins added of Tuesday’s test: “I don’t think his time trial will be a deciding factor. He won a fair amount of time in such a short period of time on a steep climb [on Sunday], so he is capable. He is capable of doing something in the mountains and creating enough of a gap that he can limit his losses on the time trial but the podium is definitely on the cards.”