Rider Interview: The stagieire’s for the end of 2019 are being announced and young Anglo-French rider, Simon Carr, will be in the colours of the Delko-Marseille Provence for the finalé of the season. Ed Hood caught up with the ‘Young Gun’ on the eve of his big break with the French ProContinental team.
‘Stagiaire,’ the term originally comes from the world of up market French restaurants where a ‘stagiaire’ is a trainee. In cycling it means that an amateur rider gets the chance to ‘try out’ with a pro continental or World Tour team from August until the season’s end. At best it can lead it a full time gig with the team. At worst you get a lot of experience and some nice clothing. One stagiaire posting which caught our eye was that of 20 years-old Franco-English rider, Simon Carr with the French, Delko Marseille Provence pro continental team.
Here’s what he had to tell us about it:
PEZ: You’re 20 years-old, born in the UK but lived most of your life in France – how so?
Simon Carr: My parents were already spending most of their time in France before I was born, but came back to the UK for my birth to be closer to family. In hindsight this was a mistake as it meant I’ve had to wait until I was over 18 to start the long process of gaining dual nationality, instead of getting it automatically at age 14. This has often been frustrating for me because I have been unable to participate in French National Championships despite qualifying every year since I started cycling.
PEZ: How did you get into racing?
After coming third in a schools mountain bike event on an old ex-hire steel bike I was encouraged to try proper racing. I made contact with a local youth cycling club in Limoux run by a Canadian, Chris Georgas. He is more involved in Woman’s professional racing but in his spare time runs a small club that encourages young road cyclists.
PEZ: You raced cadet and junior in France – what were those scenes like?
The big advantage with youth racing in France is that from about the age of 12 onwards you can get to race on proper roads. Most often these are on laps of a circuit but every now and again there are proper in line races some of which even have decent(ish) climbs. It was these races that I lived for and helped to make me the rider I am. The junior years were a bit of a disappointment, I only seemed to go well in early spring or in the wet; my parents would joke that this was down to my Welsh roots. So it was only after winning 3 stages at the Tour of Martinique as a first year U23 that I started to really understand that I was losing a lot of power through allergies.
PEZ: How was the step up to u23?
I was lucky enough to be integrated straight into a DN1 (Division One) team, OCF, which is made up of an alliance of local clubs that put forward their best riders and share the costs. Thus I was straight in at the deep end, doing hard ‘Coupe de France’ races. Mostly one day and flat these didn’t really suit me and I struggled to get any decent results. But at the few stage races that I got to do, I soon discovered that while others suffer as the days go by, my own sensations just get better and better.
PEZ: You were with Occitaine Cyclisme Formation 2017/18 – why change to AVC Aix Chazal for 2019?
As I said the OCF calendar wasn’t great for me and AVC Aix proposed a race calendar that for a climber and GC contender was almost perfect.
PEZ: You’ve had some nice wins: stages in Vuelta a Bidasoa, Vuelta a Navarra, Beaujolais Tour – so how come you don’t get recognition in the UK?
I’ve always taken the view that I should let my legs do the talking when it comes to seeking opportunities to progress. But in hindsight perhaps I should have made myself more visible on social media and made more contacts in the UK.
PEZ: A top 10 on a Valle d’Aosta stage and top 10 GC at Mont Blanc, strong results, are those what got you the Delko ride?
I think it was Mont Blanc that clinched it. Because otherwise I’d say I got the ride despite Aosta. I’d picked up a brief stomach bug, while second on GC, at an elite stage race just 10 days before and had to abandon, which I hate and hardly ever do. So although I “recovered,” the seventh on Stage Two at Aosta was the absolute dregs of my run of good form. It’s my one big regret of the season so far that I wasn’t in better shape for that race, which I think is made for me.
PEZ: How was the Delko connection made?
They contacted my Team Manager who set up a meeting, they were surprised that I seemed French despite having GBR on my licence. I enjoy that reaction because I can be British as well when I need to be.
PEZ: Does the team provide accommodation?
I don’t think so and anyway it’s only 3 hours to their service course from home, which in France is just down the road. Keep this to yourself but where I live is perhaps the best place in the world to train as a cyclist, so it’s a good fit logistically as well.
PEZ: Do you have your programme with them yet?
I’m doing the Artic Race of Norway and then a stage race in China in October, most likely the Tour of Taihu Lake. Other than that it will be what fits around my Aix commitments.
PEZ: Tell us about your training, do you have a coach?
This year I’ve been under one of the AVC Aix team coaches, Emanuel Batulla; it’s been great because as an ex French elite rider as well he’s been able to give me far more than just a daily plan, with valuable insights into tactics and even details of parcours and how races might play out where he’s raced himself. Previously though I’ve worked with Mark Walker who taught me loads and remains a mentor and a good friend. He also runs a brilliant course in Cycling Performance at Writtle University at Chelmsford in Essex, England. I’m very engaged myself in my training plans, having studied it a lot and even having done all my own coaching for a while. Something that I discovered the hard way, is great when things are going well but unbelievably difficult when they’re not.
PEZ: Describe yourself as a rider.
I’m often pigeon holed as a climber, but I believe I have what it takes to be a GC contender as well. My time trialing is pretty good despite the fact that it is the one thing lacking on my race calendar. I think this is one problem with the racing scene in France, hardly any time trials, so I usually get out on my TT bike a couple of times a week.
PEZ: You’re contemplating taking French citizenship, why?
That’s a really complex and delicate question to answer, suffice to say it has always been on the agenda since I was a child. I’m a European and as much French in spirit, maybe more so, than I am British.
PEZ: What do you hope to get from your time at Delko?
Knowing how close I am to the next level is the main aim and of course a neo pro contract would be perfect. But otherwise I’ve enjoyed this year of racing so much that another year doing the same thing, but knowing better what to expect and what to aim for, would be great as well.
# We’ll be keeping an eye out here at PEZ for Mr. Carr’s results in Norway and Taihu – we wish him well. #
Thanks to the mostly unknown photographers.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.