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Carthy: a different Giro d'Italia starts on Saturday on the Zoncolan

MONTALCINO ITALY MAY 19 Hugh Carthy of United Kingdom and Team EF Education Nippo at arrival during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 12 a 162km stage from Perugia to Montalcino 554m girodiitalia UCIworldtour Giro on May 19 2021 in Montalcino Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
Hugh Carthy of EF Education-Nippo finishes stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

In the final countdown to the toughest summit finish of this year's Giro d'Italia, climber and GC challenger Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) has said that his triumph on the ultra-steep Angliru in the Vuelta a España last year does not automatically make him a favourite for this Saturday.

Some pundits argue that following his win on Spain's hardest single climb last November, the British climber's chances of success on the 27-per-cent slopes of the Zoncolan should be equally high on Saturday.

But Carthy, currently fourth overall in the Giro at 1:17 on Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), insists that while his form is strong, it's impossible to compare the two climbs.

"I am feeling good, but it's another mountain, another race, so it's not the same," Carthy told reporters on Friday morning.

After finishing safely in the main peloton on Friday's flat run to Verona, Carthy is currently lying fourth overall following a first 13 days which he summed up as being "very tense and with a lot of bad weather."

However, the Giro d'Italia now changes pace completely and moves into the high mountains for five of the remaining eight stages. As Carthy put it, "Tomorrow []Saturday] another race starts, a different kind of Giro."

While it was cold but not rainy on the Angliru last autumn, this weekend's forecast is set to be much harsher, with heavy showers and low temperatures all day. "It'll hit some guys harder, others improve in tough weather, and that'll be a challenge, just like the climb, itself," Carthy added.

For all his caution, Carthy's track record in the Giro will surely boost his morale, and not just because in 2019 the Giro was his breakthrough race, where he took 11th overall and was the best young rider for a couple of days.

Perhaps more to the point when it comes to tackling the Zoncolan, that year Carthy also claimed fifth in a rain-soaked stage over the equally-feared Mortirolo climb, in this case going toe to toe with no less of a star name than Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo)

Although Carthy has tackled the Zoncolan before in 2018, like most of the younger riders, the 26-year-old does not know this side of the climb, averaging 9 per cent for 13.2 kilometres. What he does know is its importance.

"These mountain stages are all going to be vital before the final time trial in Milan," Carthy pointed out. "On the Zoncolan, it's going to be head to head between the favourites and the strongest will win."

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.