EF Education First-Drapac climber Hugh Carthy has shown rising form with two days of attacking in the Volta a Catalunya, first at the foot of the Alp-La Molina stage then again towards the summit of the unclassified climb at Vielha on stage 5.
Neither move worked out, with Movistar's iron grip on the race and Friday's climb being too gentle for Carthy to go clear. But the Briton's attacks, combined with other GC contenders, was enough to provoke a clampdown charge off the front by none other than race leader Valverde.
"It was too fast a climb and there were headwinds," Carthy told Cyclingnews as he put on warm weather gear close to the finish, "but at least I tried it, had a go. It just wasn't hard enough in the last kilometre.
"It was a very fast stage, downhill for a lot of it. I didn't see the finish, I don't know if there were splits, but it was fast throughout and I didn't want to do anything stupid."
Ninth on Alp-La Molina stage and now eighth overall, the Volta a Catalunya has again been good to Carthy. In 2016, whilst racing with Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, he took a breakthrough result of ninth on GC and the Best Young Rider's prize.
"I tried early on [on stage 4's final climb], went with [Marc] Soler (Movistar) and then Valverde brought it back," Carthy said, "and then I'd used up quite a bit of energy there with that attack and that was it really."
He was unable to respond when the winning break went. "When a break with riders the quality of Valverde, Quintana and [Sky rider] Egan Bernal goes, most of the group end up out the back."
As the race leaves the Pyrenees on Saturday's stage 6, Carthy believes that although the battle to win the Volta a Catalunya is all over bar the shouting, he feels there could be some changes further down the classification on Sunday's repeated ascents of Montjuic in Barcelona. On stage 5, for example, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), previously sixth overall, lost a mere 17 seconds on the main group when the main group split on the last descent, but it was enough for the Frenchman to drop to 14th.
"Tomorrow [Saturday] I don't know if anything could happen, but I think for Valverde it's pretty much sealed up," Carthy said. "Behind him, though, on GC, it's still quite interesting."
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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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