Peering through the gloom it was possible to make out some cyclists. Groups of them, in dribs and drabs, surviving their way up the Formigal; this Pyrenean ski-resort, our finish for Stage 6.
The weather, in a word, was grim. In another word, shitty. Like Flanders, at altitude, in October. Cloud hanging down low, rain-obscured TV cameras, and team colours disguised beneath rain jackets made rider ID a simple guessing game.
Roglic there, I think? Pretty sure that’s Esteban Chaves? Is that, wait…Miguel Indurain!?
One man, thankfully, more visible that the rest, was Hugh Carthy; six feet four, head to toe in pink (because, to HELL with rain jackets!), and fully committed to dropping a massive wet grenade onto Primoz Roglic and his pals.Embed from Getty Images
With remnants of the breakaway dropping back, and other riders on the attack, every-man-for-himself, scattered along every yard of this bleak climb, Carthy saw his moment. With Roglic struggling he and Richard Carapaz (probably…tough to say!?) gritted their teeth and seized the day.
The Ecuadorian, a mountain man from a tough training climate and Carthy, from the North-West of England (aka the wettest place in the world), better equipped than most in these conditions.
For we viewers, to even sit and watch on the telly for too long was to risk compromising our immune systems, but our daring duo were unfazed. Hence why we are sitting watching and eating cake and they are busy being the stuff of legend.
Towards the finish, Basque rider Ion Izaguirre was away and hanging on for a breakaway win. Then came a group of chasers. And then, marvellously, came Carthy. Those rake thin legs levering his bike one way and t’other in fine, pink style. Having been up the front at every crucial occasion so far in this Vuelta he now sits a rather exciting second overall.
Following Carthy came Carapaz, seven seconds back. The Ecuadorian (and now former, with the recent glorious ascent of Tao Geoghegan-Hart, Giro d’Italia champion) now our Red Jersey and Vuelta Espana leader.Embed from Getty Images
Roglic, having a bad day, on a horrible day, losing time to both them and Dan Martin. He sits fourth, with Martin a single notch higher up.
Even by the standards of the Vuelta Espana 2020 this was a chaotic stage. Made doubly so by the weather and our almost complete inability to pick out one cyclist from another.
Tomorrow’s rest day comes at a welcome moment. It gives the riders half a chance of getting warm and dry in time for Stage 7 on Tuesday. Carthy, in that understated way that he has, just looked a bit non-plussed. As if the weather conditions hadn’t really occurred to him.
Wondering what all the fuss was about.
(Top Image: Hugh Carthy – By Geoff Sheppard – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72835372)