A British Rider on a Spanish Team is a bit of an anomaly. Most of us don't have a second language beyond a couple of years of bad French picked up at comprehensive school. If we do have a second language it's very rarely Spanish. For most of us our knowledge Spanish was picked up from that bit in California Man where Stoney learns to ask where the bathroom is .
Donde Esta El Sanitario?
If we go abroad at all, you're more likely to see us riding for a team from another English speaking country. Teams like Australia's Orica-Greenedge, which is home to the Yates brothers, or Germany's Bora-Argon 18, although that team actually absorbed the British team NetApp-Endura. It's genetic make up is pretty much the same as the Royal Family.
Ask me to name a British rider on a Spanish team and I'll instantly name Movistar's Alex Dowsett. Ask me to name another one and I would have struggled, that was before this week's Volta A Catalunya, though.
Coming in in 10th place on the mountain stage to La Molina was a Caja Rural - Segura RGA rider. On the following day's stage to Port Aine, the Queen stage, that same rider finished 11th as Nairo Quintana ripped the field to shreds. This in a race featuring Porte, Froome, Aru, Contador, Vangarderen, Bardet, Pozzovivo, Martin, Thomas, and Uran to name a few.
A great pair of results for a rider on a small Spanish pro-continental team. An even greater result for a 21 year old British rider on a small Spanish pro-continental team.
Welcome to the limelight, Hugh Carthy, but who are you? where did you come from? and how did you end up at Caja Rural? Don't Team Sky normally snap up riders like you?
A quick scan through his palmares and there are some impressive results. You don't have to look too hard for them as at 21 his palmares is pretty small. Riders like Cancellara have won more races than young Hugh has even taken part in. So far Hugh's won the 2014 Tour de Korea (2.2), but you can be forgiven for not paying much attention to it. In 2007 Lance Armstrong rode it, actually he rode one lap on his mountain bike, but beyond that it doesn't register on most cycling fans' radars. Hugh's also had an impressive 9th place overall at the 2015 USA Pro Challenge, but that's it in terms of big results. Look more closely and you can see a steady improvement over the last couple of years, mixed with the usual DNFs that a young rider will always register.
Hugh signed for Caja Rural for the 2015 season, following on from that impressive win in the Tour de Korea. At that time he was riding for the British team, Rapha Condor-JLT.
The results look impressive, but what makes a Spanish team take on a young British rider? Adjusting to the different culture means that there's a big chance that things won't work out. It takes a special kind of rider to make that move. When riders like Tommy Simpson went over to Europe it was the only way a British rider could make it. That's not the case now. Hugh's from Preston which is just a short ride away from Manchester, the home of Team Sky. You've got to respect Hugh for making the move, if you can handle it, some formative years spent racing in Europe will have benefits long after you return to the UK.
The more you look at it, the more the fit between Carthy and Caja Rural seems to be perfect. Hugh did a bit of Spanish at school, and hired a private tutor before making the move. He actually enjoys learning languages. Then there's the type of rider that he is. A climber. A climber that can time trial. A climber that can time trial is pretty much the archetype model for a GC rider so Caja Rural may have got someone who can deliver big results in stage races. Any team needs that, especially a smaller one that struggles for coverage.
If you're a climber then you need to show you can climb. Anyone familiar with the geography of the British Isles can tell you that mountains are few and far between. We have steep hills but nothing that takes an hour to ride up, let alone 2. So if you want to be a climber then of course you need to go abroad. If you're Chris Froome you may actually go as far as being born abroad. The lure of Spain for young Carthy makes more and more sense.
As I write this Hugh sits 9th in the GC at the Volta A Catalunya. He's in some very lofty company, sandwiched between Chris Froome and Rigoberto Uran. In fact everyone on the top 10 leads a team in the World Tour. This is a huge way to announce yourself as a rider to watch. A few other sites had Carthy picked out for this year, I have to admit that I didn't have my eye on him. That's changed now, not just for me but for the World Tour teams too. It feels inevitable that he'll be linked with Team Sky if he continues his development, but maybe in Hugh we've got a British rider who won't just break the mould, he'll smash it. Wouldn't it be great if he stayed in Spain to become a team leader. Imagine a British rider leading a team like Movistar. Right now that's still far fetched, but so was Trump for President. I know which I'd rather see.