McCarthy isn’t a Grand Tour novice but his race debut with BORA-hansgrohe was something else.
The 24-year-old got through the penultimate time trial stage in Marseille on Saturday, where he stayed behind to see if team-mate Maciej Bodnar, in the hot seat for hours, could triumph, which the Pole did by a second from Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky).
“The Tour is one of the biggest races, everyone knows that, and there’s a lot on offer for everyone to have a good result here, so there is always the stress in the peloton that you probably wouldn’t feel as much in other races,” he said.
BORA-hansgrohe certainly had its share of stress and was forced to recalibrate twice at the Tour, which McCarthy initially entered to support world champion, Peter Sagan.
The team was at the centre of controversy in the opening week when Sagan was sensationally disqualified for an “irregular sprint” in stage four. It later lost co-leader and climber Rafal Majka through crash related injuries.
“Without the two big leaders, a lot of chances were lost with what our goals for this race were,” McCarthy said.
“The first week we didn’t let it get us down … it felt like we’d got through it. But in the last week, we had a bit of sickness going through the team and it felt like we were dwelling a little bit more on what happened before so, everything was catching up on us.”
McCarthy in the aftermath was given his own opportunities and in a personal highlight finished an admirable fifth in stage 14 to Rodez, just adrift of an elite podium that compatriot Michael Matthews (Sunweb) topped.
He was ill in the last week when everyone is exhausted but was nonetheless determined to tick off a career fourth Grand Tour.
“My personality in the group is always pretty happy and fun to be around, but I can tell you the last few days everyone has been asking what is up because I’ve been tired. Like anybody you have your ways of dealing with things and I kind of just curled into a bit of a ball for a few days and wasn’t really enjoying life too much,” he said.
“It’s all happened in other Grand Tours. It’s not the Tour de France, but I can tell you my first Giro d’Italia in 2014 I was lucky to have the likes of Michael Rogers, Nicolas Roche and some of the senior riders around me because it was the year that we had all different types of weather and went over Stelvio and Gavia in snowy conditions.
“Cycling can throw anything at you and you have to learn how to live with it. There’s always a better day around the corner."