Hugh Carthy can win the Giro d’Italia this year, but the stars must align for it to happen – and he must perform at his absolute best.
All the talk has been of Simon Yates, so far, when it comes to Lancaster's potential winners of Il Giro, but Hugh Carthy is another fearsomely talented rider from the north-west of England – and he too stands a chance of taking the maglia rosa home to Preston.
Carthy has continued to improve year-on-year for the past handful of seasons, emerging as a genuine contender for a Grand Tour victory in La Vuelta last year, where his aggressive climbing carried him onto the podium. But he can do better than third in this Giro, if he rides the fabled 'perfect race', he can win his maiden Grand Tour.
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The 26-year-old goes into the race as EF Education Nippo’s leader for the overall, and will have some strong backup – without, it must be said, a full team built around his GC ambitions. For the Giro’s many climbing stages, Carthy will have the Ecuadorian Jonathan Caicedo to rely on, as well as 2020 Giro king of the mountains, Ruben Guerreiro.
Alberto Bettiol may be a crucial lieutenant for the intermediate stages – his classics racing expertise coming to the fore – while Tejay van Garderen is a seasoned campaigner who has ridden 16 Grand Tours over his 14-year pro career. At the other end of the scale, Simon Carr is an incredible climber perfectly suited to stage racing, making his Grand Tour debut. One Briton’s success may hinge on the other.
If there is a vulnerability, it is EF’s tendency to try and ‘do both’ with some riders chasing individual wins from breakaways. Last year, this approach garnered success in the form of stage wins for both Caicedo and Guerreiro, after Daniel Martinez (now riding against them for Ineos) abandoned his GC tilt early in the race. After La Vuelta last year, Eurosport's Sir Bradley Wiggins also stressed how important it is that Carthy get team support in the future.
“He’s now a podium finisher in the Vuelta a Espana,” Wiggins said. “I hope Jonathan [Vaughters] backs him.
“I don’t see Hugh as that real vocal leader but what he does have is that he leads by example and he’s got that confidence.
"There’s no airs and graces about him, he’s just a level-headed, confident bloke who believes in himself. He doesn’t put an act on. He’s just happy being him and I think people respect that more than being all vocal and saying ‘this is what we’re going to do today guys…'. He just leads by example and does all the talking with his legs.”
If EF stick to their guns and back Carthy 100% at ll Giro this year, they can take the victory in Milan.
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The time trials
Il Giro this year is book-ended with two TTs and Carthy must excel in both if he is to take home the maglia rosa.
Carthy ceded 25 seconds to Primož Roglič in La Vuelta’s only TT last year. That’s no mean feat, considering he came fourth on the stage, beaten only by riders who could be deemed ‘specialists’ in the discipline. It’s clear that he is no slouch on the TT bike, but it’s also fair to say that the Spanish TT course suited him down to the ground, with a sharp, steep climb at the end of it that played to his climber’s strengths.
The final Giro TT is far from hilly. It is pan-flat, in fact. If either of Deceuninck’s twin GC candidates, Remco Evenepoel and Joao Almeida, are still in the running for pink, Carthy will have to be on his absolute best day to hold them both off in Milan.
The time bonuses
A natural scalatore, Carthy is fantastic at not losing time in the mountains, but he rarely gains any via bonuses at stage finishes. In La Vuelta last year he took just 10 bonus seconds at stage finishes while Roglič took 47” across the race – Roglič won the overall by a margin of 24 seconds.
'Hugh the mighty!' - Watch the finish to Stage 12 on the Angliru
If Carthy is to win he must press his advantage on the terrain that suits him best. He must not wait, or be happy to finish fourth in a group of pink jersey contenders – it won’t be enough – he must try for the bonus seconds too and take time at every opportunity.
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