Rider interview: Simon Carr has gone from one of Ed Hood’s ‘Young Guns’ to a WorldTour professional with the EF Education-Nippo team. Ed caught up with Simon at the team training camp in Provence last week, before he rode his first race of the 2021 season, the GP Marseillaise on Sunday. Take it away Simon.
Ready for 2021
It was back in August 2019 when we last spoke to young Brit, Simon Carr; he was about to embark upon a spell as stagiaire with French Pro Continental team, Delko-Marseille. How did it go? It went so well that the 22 year-old has just signed with World Tour team, EF Education-Nippo; best have a word we thought. . .
PEZ: Congratulations on the contract, Simon; when did EF first approach you?
Simon Carr: EF never approached me directly. My agent Robbie Hunter of ProTouchGlobal who is well versed in the market let me know such a move was a possibility following my performances at the tail end of the season. I was immediately on board as it really seemed like the logical next step for me and I had an option to move away from my previous contract.
PEZ: Were there any particular rides which caught their eye?
One of the first discussions within the team was with my assigned DS. Who told me he always pays close attention to the Volta a Portugal, [where Simon topped the final Youth category, ed.] so my performances there caught his eye. Following that up with a win in Ordiziako Klasika, I think that demonstrated my potential along with the fact that I know how to win races.
PEZ: Did Nippo Construction, who did sponsor the Delko team but are now with EF have a hand in things?
No. the Nippo sponsorship has nothing to do with me or my contract, it is something completely separate.
PEZ: Tell us about your time at Delko
It got off to a really rough start with a knee injury that had me off the bike for all of July, then not being able to start Tour de l’Ain at the last moment due to my UCI registration not being completed in time. However once I got going with my first race on my birthday (29th August) at the Trofeo Matteoti in Italy [where he finished 47th in a big group behind winner, Valerio Conti of UAE Team Emirates, ed.] I gradually got better and better throughout the season, which culminated with my win at the Ordiziako Klasika. All in all I think it was a perfect stepping stone for me, although I feel I outgrew the team quite quickly. So I’m excited to be in the EF setup that will give me the opportunity to race at the highest level all the time, something that DELKO couldn’t offer.
PEZ: Did you have any of the financial and contractual problems we’ve read about within the Delko team?
I was aware of things happening behind the scenes, which has obviously been well publicised.
The approach of the new management was very different to what I had signed up for after my time as a stagiaire.
PEZ: Your season started late, how did you deal with all that ‘lockdown’ time?
I actually enjoyed the lockdown, I didn’t go on the turbo much as I was able to commute back and forth to work on my bike. While also having plenty to do when at home. For example as we live on a steep hill with a field below that my dad is gradually terracing. We had all the tools you could want including a mini-digger to make a nice little MTB course. Which was a lot of fun especially as my brother was back from Uni as well.
PEZ: The Volta, you were best young rider, a nice performance, is that race still as uncontrolled as ever?
Yes, tactics where quite different, although not dissimilar to the French amateur scene! I was really pleased with my performances there, especially being able to ride well at the end of hard mountain stages and recovering throughout the whole race. Although looking back some bad luck cost me the result I was really capable of. Mainly Stage Two where a dropped chain with two K to go, cost me a shot at the win. And Stage Three where a puncture with four K to go, put me out of contention for a top on 10 GC.
PEZ: Your win in Prueba Villafranca – Ordiziako Klasika, a UCi 1.1 race; another nice performance, tell us about it.
I had good legs coming off the Volta a Portugal and when I saw the weather forecast for the race, I knew half the field would have already given up on the start line. However, if I’m honest I was close to calling it a day at one point. As I was dropped into the cars on the second time up the climb but fought back and ended up feeling better and better as the race went on. Going into the last lap which included an extra little climb, I was feeling really good and just raced at the front. I got away in a small five man group on the first climb, then again in an eight man group after being briefly reeled back between the two climbs. Over the final climb (excuse the repetition of the word ‘climb’ but it was hilly race) the group completely split apart but I waited until 800m from the summit to launch one decisive attack. Going over the top I had a 12 second gap on the three man chasing group and just time trialled the final 10K to the finish. I couldn’t have imagined a better end to the season!
PEZ: When’s the first EF get together?
We’ll be getting together in Provence from the 18th to 28th of January. So I’m really looking forward to seeing where I’m at and meeting my new teammates. Although Fumi Beppu and Julien El-Fares who I already know from DELKO will be some familiar faces. Coming off the back of that the early season races will be starting right away and will then come around thick and fast.
PEZ: Will the team take over coaching you?
Yes, I’m now working with Nate Wilson for coaching which is going really well. I’ve been amazed by the support we get at World Tour level, so I have no doubt I’m going to make another big step up for 2021. My previous coach Sean Yates was also moving on from DELKO so in any case I would have had to make a change over the winter.
PEZ: How have you been preparing over the winter?
Nothing special, just building a solid base with lots of hours on the bike along with some gym work and running. I’ve built up to doing quite a bit more volume than I’ve done in previous winters, so hopefully that pays off. Other than that I’ve just been staying at home, keeping away from everyone.
PEZ: Do you have any idea about your programme yet?
I’m starting off at the early season French races in Provence, then I should get my first taste of the Ardennes classics and hopefully a Grand Tour later in the year.
PEZ: How are things progressing with obtaining dual nationality, something we spoke about back in 2019?
As of November the 4th, I’m now French as well as British!
PEZ: Season 2021 will be a success if. . .
I win the Tour de France. Ah, no, that’s the 2022 script… No, in all honesty I have a long held ambition to win a stage in any of the Grand Tours. So first and foremost I need to show I’m deserving of a spot on the team, then if I do win one it will really be a dream come true!