Simon Carr: Slip below the radar

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In today's all-seeing media age, it is unusual for a British driver to make it to the WorldTour without raising an eyebrow on their home soil. After all, in distant countries showing emerging talent, the results are always just a click away. That's exactly what EF Education-Nippo-Neo-Pro Simon Carr, 22, was born in the UK and raised in France.

It's not hard to imagine that his dual national upbringing could lead to accusations that Carr was a "plastic British" imported to bolster the nation's status. However, Carr's upbringing always had a British theme. "In terms of When I was growing up, that's what my parents did Choice of having one full on purpose In-house English upbringing with English TV, English books, and English radio, ”recalls Carr. This despite only He always returned to the UK when his brother was also born in Hereford. Simon graduated from Writtle University College near Chelmsford.

That lack of time in Britain doesn't show that Carr, a very smart guy, has a flawless English accent that goes alongside his fluent French.

“I could just go back to university without taking English classes, even for written English. And when I was younger, of course, I picked up the French pretty easily. I wanted to remember how to speak both languages ​​fluently. In any situation I can appear as a normal French person or in the UK as a normal British person. "

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Fitting as a teenager raised in France meant that childhood activities like mountain biking and karting were Carr's first love, with a particular knack for two-wheel racing, despite a shaky start when they first met. “I did very badly in the mountain bike tests and on the downhill because I had no technical skills at all, but when we got to the cross-country track I found that I was very strong on the climbs and came through third. ”

This led to Carr joining forces with the local association AJCHVA-Limoux next to the Pyrenees and at the age of 12 was immediately, if not suddenly, welcomed in the mountains to go up the Col de Pailhères. "This climb is a struggle for me now, and it was a challenge then to get to the top without stopping," recalls Carr. But his potential on the road was clear.

breakthrough

Simon Carr in Strade Bianche 2021 (Photo by Luc Claessen / Getty Images)

It's a bit ironic that Brexit comes into effect the year Carr breaks through on the greatest leg of cycling. It is a product of freedom of movement that is no longer readily available to other British born cyclists, which is not lost to the EF Education Nippo rider. "If it hadn't been for that, I couldn't have had the upbringing I had and I probably wouldn't be where I am when cycling," he says.

Last November, Carr was granted dual citizenship in France and led EF's communications team to create a British and French flag mashup on the team's website to show off his split loyalties. Carr suggested using a European flag instead to show his nationality as a possible solution.

"Officially, I have both nationalities, but it says on my racing license always said GBr, " he explains.

Born overseas and moved to the French Pyrenees seems like a unique situation, but it's a similar path that Ineos Grenadier Pavel Sivakov has taken. The Russian rider was born in Italy before moving to the Pyrenees with his professional cycling parents at a young age. Carr – one year Sivakov's junior – has memories of one-sided races against the Ineos driver. “He only dominated the U16 races here and literally won everything. I was really more of a late developer. I was slowly catching up after driving it as both a junior and a U23. I did the Ronde d & # 39; Isard when he won it, but I haven't ridden it in the last three years. He's probably never heard of it me but I got closer and closer to him and now we're both at that WorldTour level. "

His journey to reunite with Sivakov went through riding for AVC Aix-en-Provence before a Pro-Continental opportunity arose for Provence Delko Marseille in 2019. As with all cyclists, Carr spent a disjointed 2020 practice session for races he didn't know would actually take place. Part of his training was walking 20 kilometers to and from his family's internet store He is an all-rounder, answers the phone, packs packages and takes over the engine mechanics.

Despite this disruption and the juggling of working life, Carr's season with Delko Marseille ended with the biggest win of his career to date at Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika in 1st place in October. Imitating previous winners like Simon Yates, Joaquim Rodríguez and Alejandro Valverde was something he wasn't expecting anytime soon. "To be honest, I would have probably said I could do it, but I wouldn't have told anyone," I will win a race by the end of the year. "

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This is all the more impressive since a knee injury meant he hadn't ridden a bike for the whole of July. A mix-up with his UCI license registration then meant that he could not race the Tour de l & # 39; Ain against an unusually loaded field due to the reduced racing calendar. To compensate for this disappointment, Carr competed in various one-day and stage races in Italy before securing the young rider's jersey in the Tour of Portugal before his breakthrough win in the Basque Country.

"It's pretty cool to see all the riders who won it before me and a bit surreal to have my name there too," he says.

This was what the EF bosses clearly noticed to make the move for the young driver and secure his signature in mid-December. When asked what a racing calendar for 2021 looked like for Carr, the team seemed interested in helping him continue his winning streak.

Keep winning

"We initially talked about the general concept (of a race plan) and the idea was to keep winning races because I've done that almost every year and they don't want me to lose that habit," explains Carr. "So I'll go for smaller races and get a big result and then get experience in the really big races and help the bigger riders on the team."

If Carr's winning run continues, the little-known Brit will no longer slip under the radar in any wheel circle.

Take coach – Matt Brammeier

Matt Brammeier (Photo by Bryn Lennon / Getty Images)

UK men's gross coach Matt Brammeier says: “Of course he was a little under the radar in France, but he got some good results in 2019. Last year we let him down for a couple of races, he was in the Tour de l & # 39; Avenir and would have had a good shot in the U23 World Cup, but that obviously didn't happen. I don't like over-marking a rider his age, but I definitely hope that in a few years time he will be one of our main contenders for more hilly races. "

This feature originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, which is available in newsagents and supermarkets at a price of £ 3.25.

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