Hugh Carthy will lead a balanced EF Education-Nippo team of climbers, sprinters and rouleurs at Vuelta a España, with the British climber ambitious to repeat his mountain stage victory and third place overall of 2020.
The US WorldTour team has selected an eclectic mix of riders to support him and target stage wins, with sprinter Magnus Cort targeting the flatter stages, Simon Carr and Jonathan Caicedo the mountains, while Lawson Craddock flies the flag for the USA.
The eight riders racing in the distinctive pink colours are Jonathan Caicedo, Diego Camargo, Simon Carr, Hugh Carthy, Lawson Craddock, Jens Keukeleire, Magnus Cort and Tom Scully.
Carthy has only ridden the recent Vuelta a Burgos after finishing eighth overall at the Giro d’Italia but his stage win on the steep climb of Lagunas de Neila on the final day showed he has some form.
“I’m feeling good ahead of the Vuelta,” Carthy said, happy to be racing in Spain, where he has spent much of his career.
"The Vuelta a Burgos in the end, turned out quite nice and it was a good week of preparation. We didn't start off as we would have hoped and my form and feeling on the bike wasn't the best but by the end of the week I turned the corner. I was in the right place by the end so I'm excited for the Vuelta and I'm excited to kick things off here in Burgos."
Carthy will start his ninth Grand Tour in Burgos on Saturday. He faces the likes of two-time winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Giro d'Italia winner Egan Bernal and 2020 runner-up Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) but the nine mountain finishes and limited time trials suit him. He knows what to expect in the next three weeks.
"I think when you do more Grand Tours you become more accustomed to them, more relaxed. You know what to expect, the highs and the lows and how your body's going to react," Carthy said.
"But Grand Tours are so long and unpredictable and you're always embarking on a long journey. It can go very wrong, it can go very well and you don't know when all of that is going to happen. You just have to focus on day to day things and look after yourself and stay healthy, try and get the best out of yourself over three weeks."
Carthy won the stage over the terrible l'Angliru in last year's Vuelta. This year he has identified stage 18 to Altu d'El Gamoniteiru, which is also steep and in the same Asturian mountains.
"I'm particularly looking forward to stage 18 and to the Gamoniteiru," Carthy said.
"It's a new climb and I think it could be a future classic. It's deep into the race and really steep so I think it could produce some fireworks. That's probably the climb I'm looking forward to the most."
Carthy will have the support of some experienced and talented young climbers in the EF Education-Nippo line-up. Camargo will make his Grand Tour debut, while Carr rides his second after completing the Giro d'Italia alongside Carthy. Cort has three Vuelta stages on his palmarès, including the final sprint stage to Madrid in 2016. The Dane is a versatile rider who can succeed on a wider range of stages than just the flat sprints.
"These guys, alongside our team veterans, can really learn a lot and we want to see where they can be in a couple of years," directeur sportif Juanma Garate said.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Simon in a few different situations and I will really push him to the line every day to try to see what he can do. With Camargo, we really think that he is a big talent but he has to keep learning and keep improving without any pressure. He has to have a Grand Tour with some goals to start to become a real WorldTour cyclist."
The rest of the team will help Cort in the sprints and target breakaways, while protecting Carthy.
"With Scully, Keukeleire, Craddock and Cort, we have some guys that will be strong on those flatter stages. For the mountains we have a bunch of other guys – Diego Camargo, Simon Carr, and Jonathan Caicedo – that can be around Hugh up until the final climb" Garate explained.
"Here at the Vuelta, the stress on the flat stages will come from the echelons and the winds so if we play our cards right, we could even gain some time there. On the climbs, I don't worry as much about those as they are a little more straightforward and we have a really strong team for those."
The EF Education-Nippo roster for the 2021 Vuelta a España: Jonathan Caicedo, Diego Camargo, Simon Carr, Hugh Carthy, Lawson Craddock, Jens Keukeleire, Magnus Cort and Tom Scully.
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