Rouleur Classic

Hugh Carthy: my Vuelta first impressions

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Photographs: Brakethrough Media

I’ve brought a Sudoku book along to the Vuelta: it seemed a good idea at the time.


I bought it at a race in France in March. I think I’ve polished off about 40 or 50 off them so far. It doesn’t say what level they are though – it’s all in French.


The rest day has flown by, a lot faster than any other day. I haven’t done much. We did a nice little ride, an hour or so, and stopped for a coffee and a chat. I had a small lunch then slept for the afternoon. Here I am for the massage.


The first couple of days of my debut Vuelta seemed to pass quite slowly in a weird way. It took a while for the race to get going, to enter into that fourth or fifth stage where you’re getting deep into the race.
I had a quiet first week, I must admit. The team time trial didn’t go how I wanted, I don’t know why. Something wasn’t working that day, I just couldn’t ride how I’ve ridden the rest of the year.


I don’t know whether that knocked my confidence a little bit, but I was a bit cautious for the first few stages. I rode conservatively and as efficiently as possible.


Then afterwards, I gave it a go at La Camperona [stage 8] to see how far I could get up. Obviously, there was an 11 or 12 rider break up the road, but [in 41st], I wasn’t a million miles from the big guys. I took a bit of confidence from that, and did a similar result the next day [39th atop Alto del Naranco].


I have tried to get into the break most days, but a lot of the starts have been flat or kind of downhill where you need power on your side. To me, it doesn’t seem like there’s been a lot of pure climbers getting into the escape, it seems to be bigger, stronger guys. But it is what it is, you’ve got to try, and I’m happy with the way the Vuelta has gone so far.



However, I had my first crash yesterday (above at 0.50). Well, I didn’t really crash, I was just stuck in the middle of it and there was obviously nowhere to go. I landed on bodies and a chainring, or something sharp, and sliced my fist open.


I’ve got a few stitches in it now, it’s a bit stiff and sore, but it’s manageable, I can brake and change gear fine, so it shouldn’t present a problem.


Of the British riders here, I’ve spoken to Scott Thwaites a few times, we go back quite a long way. To be honest, I think I’ve only seen Chris Froome face-to-face a couple of times after he’s stopped for a piss – I’m mainly at the other end of the peloton to him.


The Vuelta is heading through the Basque Country this week, the area where I’ve raced a lot for the past season and a half. They are important stages for the team, being as local as it gets. A strong showing from everyone is important.


There’ll be a lot of people cheering for Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and me. The atmosphere is like a Spaniard playing in an FA Cup Final which, for some reason, has been held at Deepdale [Carthy is a Preston North End fan – Ed]. They know who I am and respect what I’ve done, so it’ll be nice to hear my name chanted a bit.
I’m particularly looking forward to stage 13, which starts in Bilbao. It’s not really a day for me but I love those little towns in the Basque Country – it’d be a nice day’s drive in the car, but with a number on your back, it’s a different story. It’s the longest stage of the race and with those roads, it’ll be full gas all day.


If the team could win one stage, that would make our season. It would mean a huge amount. We’ve got one rider who has come close to toppling Quintana, Froome and Contador: Sergio Pardilla, up there in the mountains.


He’s our best chance if a break gets caught before the final climb because he’s not too close in the general classification, but close enough.


With more people getting tired, I think I can improve steadily and make a little bit of a mark on the race.  I want to get myself back up there and do what I know I can do.

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