After a disappointing Giro d'Italia campaign thus far which has seen him way out of the GC race at over 20 minutes down through the first two weeks, Hugh Carthy showed fighting spirit on stage 15 through the Alps to Cogne on Sunday.
The Briton had headed to Italy hoping to challenge high up the overall, having finished eighth in 2019 as well as third at the 2020 Vuelta a España. However, that hasn't worked out for Carthy, and he has had to refocus on stage wins.
After an 80km battle for the breakaway on stage 15, the first Alpine stage of the race, Carthy made it out front in a 27-man group and was among the contenders as the group whittled down over the two first-category climbs in the middle of the 177km stage.
He made his way up to the leaders on the climb to Verrogne and was in contention for victory at the start of the long final drag to the finish. He couldn't answer when Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) launched 18km out, though, and would be forced to settle for fourth on the day, three minutes down, after a long chase.
"After yesterday I was disappointed and upset but I think this can be the start of a change now," Carthy said, referring to the brutal Turin stage which saw him drop 17 minutes. "I'm disappointed not to be close to the win but I'm happy that things are turning around.
"I wish the form had been better but what can you do?" he added. "I think the only option we've got now is stage wins, so it has to be that. All six of us that are here are committed to winning a stage, so more of the same. There's not much else to do now."
Carthy had made it into the day's breakaway alongside teammates Julius van den Berg and Merhawi Kudus, with the Eritrean pulling the group hard on Verrogne before a Ciccone acceleration blew things apart at the front.
While Carthy couldn't respond initially, he did work his way back just in time for the top of the climb, joining Ciccone, Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) up front before Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM) rejoined them on the descent.
On the early, tougher, kilometres of the climb to Cogne, Carthy was among the strongest along with Buitrago and Ciccone, but he didn't have enough to respond to what turned out to be the Italian's stage-winning attack.
Carthy reflected that it was "every man for himself over the final", with all teammates in the break long dispatched midway up the climb to Verrogne.
"The whole day was, from the start, the first couple of hours, hard for me to get in the break," he said. "We had three there and it was OK. The second to last climb everything blew up.
"I was on the limit at the start of the climb, but it settled down and I was able to come back nicely at the top. After that it was every man for himself up the final climb.
"Everyone wants to go in the break I think, simple as that," he added, responding to a question about the hours-long battles to make the break over the past two stages.
"The race has been blown apart at the front, so I think apart from about five riders everyone wants to get in the break. Even Valverde was trying to get in a move today. So that's the way it is."
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Daniel Ostanek is Senior News Writer at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired full-time. Prior to joining the team, he had written for numerous major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.
As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also oversees The Leadout newsletter and How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal.