End of an era? Perhaps, but there is a wealth of talent lying beneath the surface of British cycling
Hugh Carthy continues to rise in the Vuelta a Espana - GETTY IMAGES
With all of the champagne and pink ticker tape that followed Tao Geoghegan Hart's historic victory at Sunday's Giro d'Italia, it went almost unnoticed that another young British rider made the overall standings in the Vuelta a Espana.
Hugh Carthy, a 26-year-old from Preston who has never finished in the top 10 of any Grand Tour, moved up to second overall on the final Grand Tour of the year thanks to a late attack on the final climb of the sixth stage Time for most of his GC rivals.
Whether Carthy, one of the tacitest riders in the peloton but an interesting character, can emulate Geoghegan Hart and claim a historic victory for a week in Madrid on Sunday depends not only on his legs, but also on those of his EF Pro Cycling teammate - and how the American team uses them.
It was noteworthy that even though Carthy was back on the road, EF Pro Cycling's Michael Woods was allowed to continue during the break and try to win the stage on Sunday. Will EF Pro Cycling focus entirely on Carthy for the past week, as Ineos did with Geoghegan Hart when he was in a pink jersey competition? Could Tejay van Garderen play the role of Rohan Dennis last week and blow up the race in the mountains over a brave young Brit? We will see. But Carthy's rise as a Vuelta contender is another reminder of the bubbling pot of talent that lies beneath the surface of British cycling.
Headlines for the end of an era that followed team selection for the Tour de France in August, when Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were left out by Ineos and Mark Cavendish of Bahrain-McLaren, have been dredged in the past few days to highlight how wrong we were all. Oh you little faith. But those headlines weren't entirely wrong.
The generation that won all of those Olympic medals in 2008 and 2012 and took their first major Tour victories and made cycling more than a small sport in the UK has reached the end of the road. Bradley Wiggins has retired, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish are struggling to return to their previous astronomical levels after illness and injury. Geraint Thomas is still hanging in there. Indeed, the Welshman might have won the Giro rather than Geoghegan Hart if he hadn't crashed on stage three.
But increasingly it feels as if what we experience - certainly when men ride on the road - is a changing of the guard. Geoghegan Hart's overall win wasn't the only notable British result in Italy. James Knox, a 24-year-old from Kendal, Cumbria who drives for Deceuninck-QuickStep, finished 14th overall in the Giro. Tom Pidcock, one of the hottest prospects in world cycling, making his way through the junior and U23 ranks in road, MTB and cyclocross, led the British team at the most recent road world championships at the tender age of 21. He just signed Ineos for next year. There he'll join Ethan Hayter, another young track star known for doing great things on the streets, once he gets Tokyo out of the way. Suddenly the next generation is making great strides.
Tao Geoghegan Hart - AP
For women, Lizzie Deignan is still the front runner. And at 31, she has a few more years at the top if she wants. But the talent is behind her. Lizzy Banks is 29, but relatively new to the scene, having only become a professional cyclist in recent years. She's starting to win some big team races even though her team just folded and she needs a new one. Barnes sisters Hannah and Alice are elite riders at Canyon-SRAM, while teenagers like 21-year-old Anna Henderson and 18-year-old Elynor Backstedt were recently signed by World Tour teams.
As Thomas wrote for Telegraph Sport, it's not fair to compare this new generation to Froome or Cavendish or Deignan: “You can't say who is the next Briton to win seven big tours?” Or “Where's the next British? Who can win 30 stages of the Tour de France plus Milan-San Remo and the world road race? “It's just not realistic. But as Tao has proven, the talent is out there. You just need this opportunity. "
You have a very long chance that Carthy will win the Vuelta a week ago. Suddenly the idea no longer seems so fanciful.
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