You sense this is becoming an important year for Jay McCarthy. The 22-year-old Australian has been working diligently for his teammates since joining Tinkoff-Saxo at the start of 2013 but is now emerging as someone who can bring in results of his own.
At the Tour of Turkey he is relishing the opportunity to do just that. He is sitting fourth in GC after placing fourth and tenth on the two summit finishes so far and he also came in third on the uphill sprint on stage five.
“It has been a waiting game,” he says as he sits down with Cyclingnews in the team hotel after the sixth stage. “I’ve done a lot of work for the team in the last two years at most of the races I’ve been at, but I think as I’ve grown as a rider I’ve started to feel that the going-for-victories side is starting to come into play.
“I haven’t been disappointed with my last two years and I’m not complaining about the teamwork I’ve had to do in the past – that has made me realise more about the sport plus built me as a stronger rider.
“Some neo-pros come in and they have success straight away and they get into the groove of things. For a while there, I was like ‘am I ever going to be able to do it?’ It’s nice that I didn’t stop working hard and now eventually I get the chance. Weeks like this reinforce my self-belief.”
Weeks like this but also the call-up to the Giro d’Italia last year, a Grand Tour debut at 21 that McCarthy describes as a crucial formative experience. Although a domestique for sixth-place Rafal Majka, he managed third on stage 17 after getting into a breakaway that stayed away to the finish.
That must have made an impression on his bosses, which is exactly what McCarthy is aiming to do in Turkey.
“The team see how I’m going in my training files and whatever but when you get the opportunity to go for a result or an overall classification in a race it’s always nice for them to see it,” he says. “It opens doors and sends a good message.”
Based on what we’ve seen so far at the Tour of Turkey, it’s difficult to work out where precisely McCarthy’s strengths lie. He was fourth on the queen stage – a day that took in a category-two climb and two category-ones before finishing in the mountains above Elmali.
A day later he instigated an almost-successful late attack on the relatively flat stage before finishing third the following day behind sprinter Sacha Modolo on the uphill reduced-bunch kick.
“I’m an all-rounder for sure,” he says. “From a young age going through the junior ranks and the Under-23, amateur programmes I was always an all-round type of rider. To be honest on the hilltop finish I didn’t actually think I was capable of that.
“I think one-week tours like this [are where my strengths lie], and also I’d love to do the Ardennes Classics – they’ve always been a big interest of mine. I’ve always said to myself I’d hopefully go for a good result there one day.”
Plenty of decent all-rounders have been encouraged to specialise in a certain area, to head down a certain route. Sometimes this works out for the better, sometimes for the worse. Nevertheless, McCarthy doesn’t feel too much pressure at this point in time to focus on just one aspect of racing.
“At the moment I’m still very young and I’m still developing,” he says. “One day it might be good to focus on just one area and specialise in it, but at the moment it gives me a nice approach to any sort of race I go to.
“It’s not like I’d go to any of the Belgian Classics or cobbled flat races and be worried about it. Or like at the Giro last year, I wasn’t scared of that also. So, it’s not so bad being an all-rounder in the WorldTour.”
The road ahead
What lies ahead for Jay McCarthy? He’s just keen to grab any opportunity to come his way and it will start to become clear just how far he can go. He will fly straight from Turkey to the USA for the Tour of California, where his primary role will be to support Peter Sagan.
“It’s one of his favourite races, so with my form being good I can hopefully be good help for him for stages and also maybe get my chance, too,” he said. “If we don’t have a better overall rider and I’m still in good shape, maybe I could try something there also.”
After getting a taste for the Grand Tours last year, he’d love to try his hand again, though he won’t be going to the Giro this year. The Tour de France in July is unlikely but it’s a race that’s high up on his bucket list.
“With Alberto [Contador] and now Peter in the team I think they pretty much have a good hold of what team they want to take there. Unless I do something amazing the next few races or they see I’ve come a long way then maybe not this year but hopefully one year.
“It’s an ambition of mine of course. It’s not in my head to be selected this year but if the team gave me the opportunity or they thought I was ready to do it of course I would take it. But I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t. I know I have some growing to do I’m only young and at the moment I’m enjoying going to races and getting my own opportunities.”