Beginning the day 53 seconds behind race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and eight seconds behind Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) Carthy attacked once, then twice on the 13km climb to the finish line on Alto de la Covatilla in a desperate attempt to drop the two men ahead of him in the general classification. Both times the 26-year-old was reeled in by Roglic.
When Carapaz then launched a strong counter-attack with just over 3km of the stage remaining, Carthy had no response.
At that point, the destination of this year’s Vuelta a España title came down to a straight fight between Carapaz or Roglic. There would be no repeat of Tao Geoghegan Hart’s unexpected grand tour victory at the Giro d’Italia two weeks ago.
The battle between the top two was riveting, though.
Carapaz’s initial surge roughly halved his overnight deficit of 47sec to Roglic. And with 2km still remaining to the top it looked for a minute as if the unthinkable might happen again, with Roglic falling at the very last as he did at the Tour de France in September. But this time the Slovenian rallied, dug in and managed to hold the gap to Carapaz.
Roglic ended up crossing the line 21 seconds behind the Ecuadorean and six seconds behind Carthy, thus ensuring his second consecutive Vuelta a España title. Roglic will be crowned on Sunday with the final ride into Madrid pan flat and ceremonial for the general classification riders.
Frenchman David Gaudu of Groupama-FDJ had won the stage from the day’s breakaway around two minutes earlier.
Carthy can hold his head high. He looked disappointed at the finish line but he can have no regrets. Never before has he even finished in the top 10 at a grand tour. Carthy won the Queen stage of this race on the Angliru last Sunday and secured a podium finish on Saturday. It was sensational and bodes extremely well for the future.
“I was trying to test them, to see how strong Roglic and Carapaz were,” said the EF Pro Cycling rider. “In the end it wasn’t enough. But yeah we gave our best, the whole team, for all three weeks. It’s a team effort, a real team effort. I couldn’t have done it without them. But as regards my performance I’m happy with my effort and my progression. I’ve shown my ability.”
He certainly has. And not just on the bike. Carthy has always had a reputation for being a bit different. At 6ft4in and with an ear stud, he looks a bit different on the bike, too. But he has revealed a dry sense of humour and incredible battling qualities over the course of the last three weeks.
His reputation has grown exponentially. The win on the Angliru last Sunday, with his grimacing as he fought his way up the final vertiginous climb, will live long in the memory and this race should give him huge confidence. It will be fascinating to see where he goes from here.
Sunday’s final stage will bring down the curtain on the 2020 season, one which had looked at one stage as if it might implode due to the coronavirus pandemic, bringing down multiple teams with it, but which ended up providing some thrilling action.
All three grand tours were decided by less than a minute, with this last one the closest of the lot. Roglic will win the Vuelta by just 24 seconds and after what happened to him at the Tour it would take a heart of stone not to be pleased for him.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Carthy, meanwhile, will finish 47 seconds back. He could not quite overhaul the two men ahead of him — grand tour winners both — but he did enough to suggest this will not be the last time he is in contention.” data-reactid=”35″>Carthy, meanwhile, will finish 47 seconds back. He could not quite overhaul the two men ahead of him — grand tour winners both — but he did enough to suggest this will not be the last time he is in contention.