After a steady march over the last five years British climber Hugh Carthy reached his first Grand Tour podium at the Vuelta a España. Vern Pitt finds out how the 26-year-old got there, conquered the fearsome Alto de l’Angliru and why thin bar tape is a must.
Hugh Carthy is giving a sermon on pastry. “Sometimes people try and compensate for the filling of a pie by just putting more pastry in. It’s like a Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday dinner they’re putting in pastry to make up for what they lack in everything else,” he tells CW. Having previously heard Carthy wax lyrical about butter pies, the potato and pastry delicacy of his home town Preston, we’ve idly asked him if he has a strong view on whether a pie needs to be contained within pastry or if a puff top on a hotpot-style filling will do?
It is self-evidently a daft question but Carthy is giving it some serious thought, “Just a pie with the topping is good enough for me,” he says. Then a pause. “With a Pork pie though having the pastry underneath is helpful so you can pick it up with your hands. But I wouldn’t get my knickers in a twist about it.”
It’s highly entertaining watching the gears of his brain tick over this topic, as they will do on many other things in the course of our conversation, working out in real time where he stands on this crucial baked-good conundrum, tongue firmly in his cheek at all times.
Eventually CW interjects: “I do probably need to ask you some questions about cycling, Hugh.”
“I think I’d rather to talk about pies to be honest,” he deadpans.
We’d not quite been primed to expect this from the 26-year-old Vuelta podium finisher. Carthy has a reputation as a tough person to get talking. Witness one of his post stage TV interviews and you’ll see a young man who appears completely disinterested in the process. Carthy’s former team boss at JLT Condor, John Herety, warmly describes his curt on-camera grunts as “like a teenager”.
But none of that is apparent on Zoom on a weekday afternoon in February as Carthy speaks from his Andorra apartment. Perhaps being away from the pressure cooker of the race makes the difference. Or perhaps it’s simply not being confronted with the necessary (for the press) but tedious (for the riders) requests to recount the events of the last 45 minutes to someone you know has just watched them on TV while you’re still catching your breath.
Instead he’s considered, insightful and grounded. But above all there’s an arid sense of humour never far away. It’s that which led teammate Tejay Van Garderen to tell CW last year: “I love hanging out with him. He definitely is a stereotypical Brit.”
You can read the full interview in the April 22 issue of Cycling Weekly, on sale now. If you can’t get to the shops you can have the issue delivered, or take out a subscription to have the magazine delivered each week and take advantage of a reduced introductory rate.