We tend, in this world we live in, to hold people to the standards they set, not let them lower their standards.
Once a sportsperson has achieved something great or peaked in their career, we expect them to repeat that glory, build consistency and ensure that result does not remain an event. aberrant but a frequent occurrence.
This is, of course, nonsense. No individual can stay at the top forever; some stay there longer, but everyone eventually has to settle for lesser results.
Take the case of Hugh Carthy. Touted as one of Britain’s rising stars in his teens and early twenties, the EF Education-EasyPost rider lived up to his promise at the 2020 Vuelta a España when he finished third overall, securing his first place on the Grand Tour podium. It was an outstanding achievement.
Since then, Carthy has finished eighth and ninth in the Giro d’Italia and is currently 14th overall in the Vuelta a España. Had he not finished third in the Vuelta, those Giro results would have been seen in a different, more complementary light; now, however, the public’s Carthy Barometer of Success indicates that only a podium finish is considered an outstanding and significant success for the Prestonian.
It’s unfair though and doesn’t reflect what the man himself thinks. “I think top 10 would be something I would love to do,” the 28-year-old said weekly cycling. “I don’t expect anything. I come to every race the same way, I try to do my best and the result is the result.
“If there are ten guys who are better than you, there’s not much you can do. I’m happy to be here, to be racing well and I’m not going to try to set expectations.”
Should Carthy finish in the top 10, he would join an exclusive club of just four other Britons who have finished in the top 10 of a Grand Tour more than three times: the other members are Chris Froome, Robert Millar and Simon and Adam Yates.
“That’s my goal,” he says. “And I am able to do that. I look around me at the riders in front of me in the general classification and I have confidence. There is room for improvement… but until Madrid nothing is done.”
Jay Vine is a different case. The Aussie, as the now well-known story goes, has only been a professional for two seasons, securing a contract with Alpecin-Deceuninck last year through Zwift Academy.
His two stage wins at this year’s Vuelta, his possession of the mountain jersey and his watts per kilo figures mean people are now wondering whether or not he should challenge for GC honors in the future. Grand Tours.
Stage victories, according to the story, are not enough; if Vine is such a great climber, he should be able to confirm it and be in contention to win the Giro, the Tour or the Vuelta.
He does not agree. “Who remembers finishing seventh overall in the Tour in 2013?” Vine asks, our further research telling us that it was Jakob Fuglsang who occupied that bunk. “But you will always have that photo of you crossing the line as a stage winner.
“It’s interesting because I personally think, and I know other riders do, that a top-10 overall finish means you’re doing really, really well. But no one else thinks so.
“Maybe they do it at the time, maybe a week later, but two months later nobody cares.
“Obviously you get paid a lot of money to be a GC rider, but it’s a lot of stress for 3,500km and I wouldn’t have been able to get my wins if I had raced for GC. And those wins were awesome. I would don’t trade them.”
Vine says that before the Vuelta he counted where he could earn points in the mountain classification, but opting for the polka dot jersey is much more fun and much less demanding than trying to finish in the top 10 of the GC, a result that people would forget in a few days.
“The margins are so good for the GC,” he says, knowing his one-week stage racing experience where he finished second twice in the Tour of Turkey and once in the Tour of Norway.
“We started this race with a team time trial in the Netherlands and we were never going to be competitive. Ineos spent millions getting their guys ready for the time trials and they still lost 13 seconds. That’s why I came here with the goal of a stage win.”
As Vine and Carthy tackle the final half of the Vuelta, both determined to achieve their own personal goals that will constitute success for them, it is heartening to read Vine’s comments on how fun bike racing can be, even when there are so many internal things and external pressure.
“The eighth stage was just brilliant,” he beams. “It was fun all day, the valleys were fast, I was tearing up with a friggen ex-world champion. It was awesome. Absolutely fantastic. I loved every minute.”
Success can come in many ways; it doesn’t have to be defined by what came before.
. Reinvent quest really success with Jay Vine Hugh Carthy