Born in 1994 in Preston, Hugh Carthy is a British racing cyclist with a bright future. In 2014 he won the Tour of Korea stage racing in the colours of Condor-JLT before joining the Spanish Team Caja Rural-Seguros RGA until 2017. He now rides for UCI WorldTeam EF Education First and has been on the start line for the 2016 Vuelta and the 2017 Giro.
This year saw Hugh race an amazing Giro d'Italia finishing 11th overall (+16' 36") and hung-out with the favourites in the mountains, including an epic wet assent of The Mortirolo; thus proving he can mix it up with the best and perform on the biggest stage races in the world.
Many thanks to Hugh for completing the Mamnick quiz.
As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?
Any good result after a set back or low point really. Back in the summer of 2015 I was racing Volta Portugal for Caja Rural and was at a low ebb and felt totally out of my depth and like I was in the wrong line of work. It was stinking hot and the peloton was so fast and intimidating. I started the race with a stomach bug and I’d had a few injuries mid way through the season and I just wasn’t returning to the level I knew I was capable of being at. I persevered and finished the race. I raced in The United States a week later and had my stand out result of the season, I was on a massive high and it gave me massive confidence and belief that success is always around the corner as long as you persevere and keep doing things right. That experience keeps me going even now when things don’t seem to be going well.
Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?
I don’t go back “home” to Preston all that much these days but when I do I always head to the Trough of Bowland, in particular the stretch between Whitewell and Scorton. I always think it’s at its best midweek, in the rain on a really grim day. No Sunday’s drivers, barely any other cyclists. Just me, the sheep and farmers. Last Christmas I was back home for 8 days I think I rode through “The Trough” 6 times.
In Lancashire, there’s a local legend called Randy Allsop. He rode in the Olympics in ‘72 in the team time trial. He always did the same training ride every day, even in recent years. People asked him why he did the same ride every day. He always responded, why would I do my second or third favourite ride when I can do my favourite everyday. I liked that.
The same question for roads anywhere in the world?
When I lived in Pamplona I used to like heading into the “Baztan Valley” it was always cloudy and damp even in the middle of summer but enjoyable to ride there nonetheless.
What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
It’s not a particular moment but a period of my cycling life. When I was young going out on the winter club run on a Sunday. I’d look forward to it all week at school while my mates were looking forward to going to watch Preston North End or play Sunday league. I’d come home late Sunday afternoon in the dark shattered having spent the day with friends, have a hot bath and my tea then try and get all my homework done before I fell asleep.
Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?
A lot of the time I don’t go out riding for enjoyment and it can feel like I’m in a rut, always following the numbers and planning routes around what efforts I have to do. I definitely fall out of love with cycling towards the end of the season, but when the season’s done and I ride for fun without a schedule I realise I still feel the same way about the bike as I did when I first started riding years ago. Once I finish racing I like to think I’ll still ride as much as I can.
Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs'?
It depends on the woman involved. Some will be a distraction while others will bring the best out of you.
All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?
Probably because it’s significantly less effort than doing hard training and following a diet. I always enjoyed tinkering with my bikes and “tuning” them. I guess it’s a bit of a hobby for some people too.
Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?
Primarily I ride to train and prepare for races. Enjoyment, to a degree, is secondary. I still enjoy going out and returning home knackered like before but if training doesn’t go as planned you can come back feeling a bit deflated. Some days it’s good to refresh things and go out with your mates, without numbers or a time schedule and just ride like I used to years ago.
Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?
Before I was a pro I used to love watching the big stars. For me in the mid 2000s Vinokourov was my favourite rider to watch. Since being a pro I respect more the riders that aren’t in the limelight. Imanol Erviti springs to mind. He’s a gentle giant and one of the most respected riders in the bunch. He’s a great racer in his own right and he’s played a big part in many of Movistar’s biggest victories over recent years.
What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?
For me my favourite era was early mid 2000’s when I first started watching pro racing. More brightly coloured jerseys and shorts than now and more “traditional” bikes. It was around the time just before helmets became mandatory so you could identify the riders faces more easily and see the pain and suffering on the climbs.
What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (either something you currently own or have in the past)?
Currently it’s my thick winter training jackets. Now, most of our kit is made to measure and for a tall lanky person like myself that makes a big difference. I give away a lot of my kit after the season but I never give away the thermal training jackets. I hated it when the sleeves were too short in the winter and exposed my wrists to the cold. It’s a nice luxury to have that I appreciate every time I wear one.
What do you think about Strava?
I don’t upload rides personally but I use the app when looking at race routes to find information about climbs etc.
If it gets people out in the fresh air on bikes then it’s not a bad thing but purely going out to beat a certain time or coming home pissed off because you couldn’t beat that time doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve read about blokes falling out about Strava segments which seems a bit sad.
What do you think about Sportive rides?
I like the idea of bringing different people together that wouldn’t normally have met but I don’t agree with the extortionate prices some events charge. Some people taking part need to respect the area they’re riding in a bit more. I remember crossing paths with a sportive locally to me a few years ago and seeing blokes riding five abreast and littering gel wrappers and all sorts at the road side, I didn’t like that and it doesn’t do any good to the reputation of the local cyclists.
Do you have any cycling pet hates?
When I catch and pass a rider I don’t know while out training. I give a polite wave and greeting as I’m passing but get nothing in return only to turn my head around a few minutes later to find them sat in my wheel.
Also when cyclists ride through red lights and generally show no respect to other road users.
Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?
No one seems to drink pots of tea at the cafe anymore! All I see cyclists drinking in the cafes now are flat whites and Americanos. For me, tea is the traditional drink of the British club cyclist and I always try and honour that when I’m home.
Cotton cap or helmet?
A few years ago cotton cap, against my parents wishes, but now nearly always a helmet.
The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?
About 90rpm on the flat, 80rpm on the climbs.
What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?
Depends who I’m riding with. With James Knox, for example, we can get our teeth stuck into something trivial and argue for hours on end about it.
When were/are you most happy?
When I’m with like-minded friends, doing something we enjoy, having a laugh without any stress or time restraints.
When did you laugh the hardest?
Recently in the Giro on some of the flat transitional stages we had a good bit of banter between the young British riders. It was mainly me defending myself against their abuse, but we had a good time.
Are you the type of person who likes to have a plan? Or do you prefer to wing it?
Definitely like having a plan.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Not much, I’ve tried to learn from mistakes I’ve made along the way which have helped me get to where I am today.
All photos provided by Hugh Carthy