Last week, a dozen of our European based riders met up for a small team…
If you’ve been following our team this year, you’ve surely heard the name Simon Carr. The new pro gained popularity in the cycling world after he finished in 11th place at Strade Bianche, one of the most difficult races on the calendar.
It’s clear that he’s a special kind of rider. Not only is he fast, but he’s filled with fight. Team CEO, Jonathan Vaughters, noticed this resilience which prompted him to sign him on for the 2021 season. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. But the size of the fight in the dog,” said Vaughters.
Now he’s at the Giro, trying for breakaways and launching attacks against far more experienced riders. And so far this season, there’s been plenty of press and excitement surrounding the 22-year-old. Maybe you’ve noticed that he’s commonly referred to as a “young British rider” in almost all of his interviews. Carr was born in Herefordshire, England and races under a British license, but he actually grew up in the Aude and Ariège départements of southwest France and holds a French passport.
So we sat down with him and talked about his dual nationality and how it’s helped him in the sport and beyond.
Carr describes his hometown, which lies south of Carcassonne in the foothills of the Pyrenees, as “idyllic.” In other words, a great place to ride a bike around. With a setting like this and Carr’s innate talent, it seemed that cycling would inevitably become a part of his future.
“It’s the best place in the world to ride. Which is purely coincidental as my parents initially only moved here to enjoy a better quality of life that simply wasn’t financially viable for them in the UK,” said Carr.
It’s only fitting that this dual national would end up on a team featuring the EF Education First logo, an international education company that specializes in language training. “I speak French and English fluently, to the point where a French person couldn’t tell I am British and vice versa. I don’t remember not speaking both languages fluently. I must have spoken a bit of English first, but I picked up the French as soon as I started nursery school,” said Carr. As for other languages, he’s got a pretty good handle on Spanish. “That’s the foreign language most often taught in local schools here. I’m still lacking a bit of confidence to speak much, but I understand and can read Spanish very easily,” said Carr.
Carr believes that practice is of course essential to learning a new language, but speaking it in the country where it’s the native tongue is when you really can master it. “It would be great to spend some more time in Spain to really get to grips with my Spanish. I have a good base and learn quickly, so I’m sure even just a couple of weeks of full immersion and I’d be almost fluent,” said Carr.
At home, Carr speaks mostly English with his family. Plus, it’s the most common language spoken among his teammates (with 15 different nations represented) at EF Education-NIPPO. He notes that throughout quarantine there wasn’t the opportunity to use French as much, so it’s a bit rustier than usual. “It’s actually scary how quickly you can lose a language, even one you’ve known your whole life. With the various lockdowns over the past year, I’ve sometimes barely spoken French for a few months at a time, which has left me briefly searching for words when I suddenly have to speak it again,” said Carr.
Carr believes that his dual nationality has been an immense help in opening up new opportunities for him. Though one hindrance was that he didn’t have national team support as a young rider trying to break into cycling. “I have never done any national championships, let alone Europeans or Worlds. However, I never had any pressure from a national cycling federation, and was able to just develop at my own pace. Which I think has panned out all right so far,” said Carr.
Road captain Mitch Docker is already impressed by Simon’s skills and looks forward to seeing what he’ll be able to accomplish this season.
“You forget how young Carr is being it’s his first year as a WorldTour pro. He’s already really stepped up to the plate,” said Docker.
Besides his obvious love for cycling, the rookie is also a major foodie. Carr said his favorite thing to do in new countries is to try the local cuisine. “I really enjoy cooking at home, but there’s nothing better than discovering something you’ve never tried before. And for the period of time you’re in that area it becomes your absolute favorite food. I never try to recreate anything at home though, because it would never be as good and that would just spoil it,” said Carr.
Yet in order to enjoy travel, Carr doesn’t have to go very far or take a plane ride to a destination. “I enjoy finding new places, whether it’s a new road or track within riding distance from home, or somewhere cool in a completely different country. I just love exploring,” said Carr.
Looking ahead as to where he’d like to go this year, Carr said that he’s never been to North America and hopes to travel there eventually. “Fingers crossed something like that will be possible soon,” said Carr.
As for now, Carr will be racing in Italy at the Giro for the next couple of weeks. Keep your eyes on him as he takes on the mountains and makes his breakaway attempts — while surely practicing his Italian with Alberto Bettiol in between races.