Hugh Carthy's ambition for his first grand tour, the 2016 Vuelta a Espana, was to arrive in Madrid after 21 stages of racing across Spain. On the first rest day of the race, the 22-year-old Caja Rural-Seguros RGA rider sits 143th overall, 1:41:09 down on leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) out of contention for a high overall finish but within reach of achieving his pre-race goal.
"It's been a tough race so far, there's not been any easy stages where you can relax, do as little as possible. Every stage has parts of it where you got to alert, you got to be ready to get stuck in. It's been a good experience for me, a great experience getting up day-after-day for ten days. It's been exciting," Carthy said on the rest day.
The first rest day came at an opportune time for Carthy after he was involved in a crash on stage 10, injuring his hand. "The hand is ok, it's been stitched up, banged and cleaned so it should be ok. it's not a a terrible injury," he explained.
The promising general classification rider, who has sealed a move to Cannondale-Drapac from the 2017 season, impressed earlier in the season with ninth place overall at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and enjoyed victory at the Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo. Explaining the differences between the races he's ridden pre-Vuelta, the 2015 Volta a Portugal being his previous longest race endeavour, Carthy explained that he is adjusting to the three-week grand tour.
"There is a lot of pressure on riders here with the end of the season not too far away and some riders out of contract and some do [have contracts, ed] which I find affects the racing. It's been a big race, one of the biggest in the world as one of only three grand tours which is big opportunity for sponsors, for the riders to showcase themselves," he said.
"I didn't want to spend too much energy in the first week and then come to regret it later in the race," he added of his approach to the race. "Staying calm and keeping a lid on things, that was tough but now, a couple of days ago I started to show myself at the front and find my legs that I knew I had. I think now, looking at it positively with the rest day, it's a good break to relax a bit more and switch off for today and get back into the race tomorrow picking up where I left off."
With a mountainous second half of the race that provide options for Carthy to chase his own personal stage winning options, the 2014 Tour de Korea winner is hoping it comes together at the right time.
"I have not circled one stage, ‘stage x, stage a, stage b' nothing like that," he said if there is one stage in particular he is targeting. "Take each day at a time. You have those days where everything seems to go right, you have all the luck, you're legs are working perfectly and your body and mind are in co-ordination and those are the days when you can win races.
"I think the day for me when I could do something is when everything is in perfect co-ordination. When that will come, I don't know but I'll try to help myself and prepare as well as possible so if it comes I am ready for it.
"We are still strong, optimistic, positive and looking forward to the rest of the race."