Some riders capture your imagination more than others.
It can be the result of one line in an interview, one innocuous move in the bunch, or one glance into the television camera. Or it can be an accumulation of those things. Something just tweaks a connection deep in your mind and buries the unlikely victim into your affections.
And here’s why he should be your new favorite cyclist, too.
First things first, the gangly 26-year-old won a stage on the Alto de l’Angliru, and that in itself deserves hella lot of credit.
At 1.93m (6-foot-3) he’s not exactly got the neat compact build of your typical featherweight climber. Seeing Carthy gurning away as he wrestled his huge frame and equally-huge-framed bike up the Angliru’s 25-percent pitches looked so out-of-kilter with the super-efficient, high cadence, bland-faced look of so many of the WorldTour’s best. It looked horribly wrong, yet oh-so-right.
Carthy’s pathway to the WorldTour was equally atypical.
Rather than following a typical British program through to a slot at Team Sky/Ineos, Carthy took the side-door to the top. Born in Preston, a gritty industrial city in northern England, Carthy stepped up from UCI continental team Rapha-Condor to join the none-more-Spanish Caja Rural, based in the cycling hotbed of Navarra.
The Brit had never been to Spain. He didn’t speak Spanish. There were no other English-speakers in the squad. He just rode a bike fast and knew what he wanted.
Carthy’s career path continued to follow a crazy trajectory from there, reportedly turning down an offer from Team Sky in 2017 in favor of joining the crazy gang of assorted eccentrics at Cannondale-Drapac.
But though he’s unpredictable and unconventional, at the same time, Carthy is more British than drinking a pot of tea while watching Queen Elizabeth’s speech on Christmas day. Watching the 26-year-old’s post-race interviews is like tuning in to the finest exemplar of dry, dark Brit wit. Think the perfect Venn diagram of Simon Yates’ bluntness, Geraint Thomas’ understated humor, and Bradley Wiggins’ self-deprecating one-liners.
Some don’t get it. I can’t get enough of it (yes, I am a Brit myself). No one needs another bland recital of “The legs were good, the team was great, I’m taking it day by day.”
Some days Carthy responds to reporters with a look of puzzled confusion that I can imagine has left many reporters with sweaty palms. Later in the same interview, he may reel off a dry quip that can almost go unnoticed to a half-listening ear. But sometimes Carthy is emotive and insightful.
He’s unpredictable and off-kilter, yet couldn’t be more old school, and he looks like he’s going to be around for some time yet.
Time to adopt “Huge” Hugh Carthy as your new favorite rider.