Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) netted a memorable solo victory on stage 12 of the Vuelta a España. The British racer tamed the Alto de l'Angliru to take his first Grand Tour triumph on Spain’s toughest climb, joining Alberto Contador, José María Jimenéz and Roberto Heras on the list of Angliru winners.
A win of this calibre is reward enough for any racer, but thanks to his a 10-second time bonus and 16-second difference to the next group on the road, led home by Astana's Aleksandr Vlasov, Carthy also has overhauled Israel Start-Up Nation leader Dan Martin to move up into third overall, just 32 seconds down on new leader, Ineos Grenadier's Richard Carapaz.
On the fearsomely steep slopes of the Angliru, Carthy made an initial dig with three kilometres to go – the steepest section of the climb at over 20 per cent gradient – and try to break free of the group of favourites.
That failed to work out fully, but after riding in a lead group with Carapaz and Movistar's Enric Mas, the British racer went again for good with just over a kilometre left to race. Having suffered at the top of the Farrapona 24 hours earlier, losing seven seconds on the other favourites, Carthy’s Sunday on the Hell of the Angliru, as the climb is nicknamed, was another story altogether.
“To win in any professional race is a dream come true but to win in a Grand Tour, on a mythical climb, it doesn’t get any better than that, it’s hard to put into words,” said Carthy, whose previous biggest victory was a stage of last year's Tour de Suisse.
As he wryly observed when asked if a kilometre to go had been the right point to attack, “it looks like it - I won the stage.”
In the main press conference later, Carthy – speaking in fluent Spanish having turned pro with Caja Rural-Seguros RGA – recognised that victory on the Angliru marked a new chapter in his career.
“I think the time has come for me to step up as a racer. I knew it would happen, but this has helped my teammates believe it too. It’s the best triumph I’ve ever had,” the 26-year-old said.
A former winner of the Vuelta a Asturias back in 2016, Carthy said that winning on the Angliru – “the toughest climb I’ve ever done” – represented something of a return to his roots with Caja Rural, where he began life as a professional back in 2015.
“Northern Spain is great,” he said. “Here in Asturias reminded me of my time in Caja Rural, it was where I got my first professional victory and the fans reminded me of that on the way to the start today. I want to dedicate this win to them, in the hard times we’re all going through.”
Carthy’s victory is also the second for EF Pro in the 2020 Vuelta a España after Michael Woods' breakaway triumph in Villenueva de Valdegovia, and as the British climber pointed out after the stage, it also has helped squeeze the GC down to a minimum.
The top four are now in a timeband of just 35 seconds, with Mas in fifth at 1:50 and the rest over five minutes down. Tuesday’s time trial will likely provide another major sort out and then there is another showdown next Saturday on the Alto de la Covatilla.
"It’s exciting and it’s what the public want – a close race. There’s everything to play for."
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