Hugh Carthy packs a breakout grand tour performance on his palmarès and a fresh new contract renewal with EF Education-Nippo in his pocket – but that doesn’t make his life any easier.
In fact, it almost makes things tougher as he heads toward a GC challenge at next month’s Giro d’Italia.
Not that Carthy is complaining. After five years on the edge of the frame, Carthy will step center-stage at the Italian grand tour next month as a legitimate podium contender.
“It all feels harder now,” Carthy told VeloNews. “Finishing third in the Vuelta has definitely made me more relaxed and more confident in my abilities, but that doesn’t mean there’s any pressure off at this Giro.
“It’s not like I don’t feel like I’ve got nothing to prove anymore. It’s almost harder – now I’ve got to go out there and prove it all again.”
Carthy posted his best-ever grand tour at last year’s Vuelta a España, finishing third on the podium and scoring a memorable stage win atop the mighty Alto d’Angliru. With both Daniel Martínez and Michael Woods leaving EF Education-Nippo at the start of the season, Carthy now boasts a lofty new status to match his lanky 6-foot-4 frame.
The Giro will provide the 26-year-old his first opportunity to start a grand tour as sole leader of the U.S-based squad. The Brit is bluntly realistic after stringing together a strong start to the season, highlighted by fifth at last week’s Tour of the Alps.
“I’m going to give the GC a good go, I’ve been given the green light to go as team leader,” Carthy said in a call to his base in Andorra. “It’s my objective for the season, whether that comes to fruition with a top-10 or top-five or podium or winning it, or whatever. That’s my objective, it’s as simple as that.”
Carthy knows results won’t just come his way after banking his first grand tour podium last fall.
After spending the best part of two years as the sole native English speaker at Basque squad Caja Rural, Carthy reportedly turned down an offer to hit the WorldTour with Team Sky in favor of the increased opportunity and freedom of Cannondale-Drapac.
Now in his fifth year with EF, Carthy’s “hard work pays off” mentality still burns strong.
“After a good year, you know what you’ve got to do, you know what it takes, but you know how hard it is,” he said. “So you’ve just got to wrap your head around that and get on with it. There’s no substitute for hard work – the day that you forget that or the day you think that there is a substitute is the day it’s going to start crumbling.”
Team director Charly Wegelius described Carthy as “the oldest 26-year-old old I know,” thanks to his dry, sardonic humor and bleak realism. His work ethic could be described as equally old-school.
Also read: The enigma that is Hugh Carthy
“I’m happy when I’m working. I like working and going to races, I like training. I like grinding and going through the process of it and feeling myself getting stronger and learning new things and pushing my limits,” he said. “Would you call that old school, working hard?
“But nowadays is all nice on social media when people are on holiday, doing fancy things and adverts or whatever on Instagram, all that shit,” he continued. “But behind that, there’s people riding hard every day and resting hard and eating the right foods and stuff. That’s what wins your races.”
A peek at Carthy’s Instagram account lays bare his mentality. There are no sunny beaches, flat whites or dream landscapes. It’s just race imagery, often with no text. The visuals do the talking.
Just hours after speaking with VeloNews, EF- Education Nippo confirmed it had extended Carthy’s contract. Sure enough, when breaking the news, team manager Jonathan Vaughters praised his new leader’s ability to graft.
“He works hard, isn’t scared to punch above his weight, and, most importantly, he stays true to himself,” Vaughters said. “We knew his work ethic would pay off, and we’re just glad people are starting to notice.”
The world certainly noticed when Carthy wrestled his bike to the top of the Alto d’Angliru ahead of the likes of Richard Carapaz and Primož Roglič last fall. It was the highlight of a near-perfect Vuelta campaign where he dropped into seventh on the opening stage and only went up from there.
Also read: Carthy conquers the Agliru
With his fourth Giro d’Italia on the horizon next weekend, Carthy is cautiously optimistic as he prepares to battle a packed field including Simon Yates, Egan Bernal, Alexander Vlasov and João Almeida.
“I’m confident in my abilities. I’ve proved it over a couple of grand tours now where I’ve been in the back end of the race with the best riders. I just want a good performance for me – whether that’s fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, first or whatever, 11th,” he said.
“I think I’m a good enough rider to challenge for top-5 if it goes well. I don’t fear it and I don’t doubt my abilities. I just need a bit of luck and to be well concentrated for a few weeks and see what happens.”
If Carthy does get his top-5 next month, he certainly won’t be lapping up the limelight through the summer.
“Yeh I don’t get carried away going to local events and opening supermarkets, whatever, cutting ribbons like some TV celebrity,” he said bluntly.