The 2020 Vuelta a España podium finisher came through a time trial which by his own admission did not suit him with a time loss of 33 seconds.
But the bigger blows came on stage 2 when he was held up by a late crash and, although not injured, lost 38 seconds. Then on Picón Blanco, the race’s first summit finish on Monday, he slid back from the front group late on and lost a further 24 seconds.
Currently 23rd at 2:02, and 92 seconds down on key GC reference point Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), the Briton said at the start of Tuesday’s stage 4 that it had not been a straightforward start to the race. But he remained confident, nonetheless, that opportunities to bounce back would arise.
“I struggled a little bit with the wind on the climb and the headwind made it a tough start but it is what it is,” Carthy told reporters at the start of stage 4. “I lost a bit of time, I didn’t have the best legs yesterday [Monday] but there is still a lot of racing to come.
“I haven’t lost so much time that I am actually out of GC, so we’ll continue as we were. I’m not going to panic.”
Given the wind does not tend to be his strong point, Carthy will likely attempt to limit the damage on Wednesday’s flat run to Albacete. But the big set-piece mountain stages on Friday and Sunday in Alicante and to Velefique to Almería may well be more to his liking.
History will be on Carthy’s side on Sunday to Velefique, too. On the Vuelta’s last visit to the long, grinding climb in the Sierra de Filabres in 2009, Ryder Hesjedal won for the same team as Carthy’s current squad, albeit when the team was known as Garmin-Slipstream, not EF Education-Nippo.
“I’ve just got to see how it goes,” Carthy said at the stage 4 start, “the GC battle has been pretty fierce so far, but that’s what you’d expect in a Grand Tour.”
He brushed aside the idea that Ineos Grenadiers were a diminished force after Richard Carapaz had also struggled on the Picón Blanco, losing more than twice the time ceded by Carthy.
“They’ve got lots of options so it wouldn’t be a massive issue for them if they did lose him. But in any case, we’ll see how it goes in the coming days.”
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.
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