British rider Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) took his first podium in a cycling Grand Tour by finishing third in the Vuelta a España.
The race, which, together with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, forms one of cycling’s most prestigious races, was won by Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). The Slovenian rider finished 24 seconds ahead of Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, who represents the highest-ranked British team, Ineos Grenadiers.
Chris Froome was originally scheduled to be the leader of Sir Dave Brailsford’s outfit; however, the Briton couldn’t find optimal form and was losing time to his main rivals from the very beginning, leading the team to turn to Carapaz.
Roglič’s victory, meanwhile, comes weeks after the Slovenian was on the verge of his first Tour de France title, losing the leader’s jersey – and thus the race – to his compatriot, Tadej Pogacar, on the penultimate day of the event.
This is the 31-year-old’s second consecutive Vuelta a España victory, as he also triumphed in the 2019 edition of the race.
The 75th Vuelta a España was held in a reduced 18-stage format. It was originally scheduled to begin in the Netherlands, however, the Covid-19 pandemic and difficulties linked to travel forced the organisers to cancel the three Dutch stages.
Instead, the race began in the Basque Country, and Roglič immediately asserted his hunger for victory by winning on the very first stage and becoming the first leader.
However, the Slovenian rider struggled on the sixth stage, which ended in the ski resort of Aramón Formigal. As Carthy finished eighth and thus proved he would be involved in the fight for top positions, Roglič lost a considerable amount of time and handed the leader’s jersey over to Carapaz, who also had a good day.
The Slovenian Jumbo-Visma rider, however, took back time on Carapaz on the climb of Alto de Moncalvillo on stage eight and took the victory, before winning again on stage ten, which finished on a slight hilltop, and regained the lead, though only thanks to timebreaker rules, as he had the same time as the Ecuadorian.
Carthy then brought the sole British win of the race on stage twelve, which ended on the Alto de l’Angliru, one of the hardest climbs in Europe.
With the gradient averaging 10% but reaching a huge 23,5% at one point, this ascent usually favours shorter riders, whose lower body mass equates to less resistance on the steep sections.
The six-foot-three rider from Preston took no notice of this and kept a strong cadence to easily shed his rivals in the final 1500 metres
The six-foot-three rider from Preston, however, took no notice of this and kept a strong cadence to easily shed his rivals in the final 1500 metres. Carapaz, meanwhile, was able to jump forward and drop a visibly struggling Roglič to take some more time from his main rival.
Roglič turned the tables again after the second rest day, however, winning a difficult time trial and regaining the lead, as Carthy recorded the fourth time on the day and consolidated his third position in the general classification.
An otherwise easier final week saw action restricted to the penultimate stage, finishing with a climb to the ski station of La Covatilla. Here Roglič struggled again, and, as Carapaz took off, with Carthy not far behind, a repeat from the Tour de France became more and more likely with each kilometre.
However, there was simply too little opportunity to put any time into the Slovenian, who managed to defend a lead of 24 seconds heading into the ceremonial and processional stage on the streets of Madrid.
Carthy, meanwhile, defended his third place on the final ascent and, despite an unexpected 28-second loss on the final day, was able to celebrate his first Grand Tour podium.
The third place for the 26-year-old undoubtedly comes as a surprise. Before this race, the EF Pro Cycling rider has never been ranked higher than eleventh in a Grand Tour and has mostly pocketed successes in lower-ranked races. Additionally, his American team isn’t able to offer him neither as many helpers nor as high a budget as the outfits of Roglič and Carapaz.
However, the British rider was able to confidently seize the opportunity given to him in the last few weeks and now will undoubtedly be a key Grand Tour contender in the future.
Carthy’s podium is the second Grand Tour podium for a British rider this season. In October Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) took an equally surprising victory in the Giro d’Italia.