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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Simon Carr the grand tour rookie and Uno GC contender

The British-French rider has been supporting Hugh Carthy's GC bid in his grand tour debut at the Giro d'Italia.

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Throughout the Giro d’Italia, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders that battle on each day without the recognition the major GC favorites or sprint stars receive.

The battle for the pink jersey is the top competition at the Giro d’Italia, but there is another hotly contested affair going on behind the scenes.

The EF Education-Nippo Uno general classification.

The American squad has been playing the card game after dinner throughout the race, and WorldTour rookie Simon Carr is the team’s maglia rosa. With the seriousness of the GC competition, duking it out over card games is a nice distraction.

“I think it is a bit of a team tradition to do a bit of Uno after dinner,” Carr told VeloNews in a phone call after stage 12. “At the moment, I’m leading the classification. We have a pretty complex points system that goes for the whole race. At least I’m leading one GC.

Also read: Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Taco van der Hoorn and the pursuit of aero

“The winner gets negative 10 and then depending on the cards each player has left in their hands the card has a value and you get that. The goal is to get the least amount of points. We haven’t had time to do it every day, because some of the days have been very long and we only finish dinner at about 10. Normally we get to bed soon after that. When we’ve had time, it’s a bit of a distraction.”

The Uno playing is a rare chance to socialize with the other riders off the bike, particularly as none of them is sharing a room during the Giro. While many teams have reverted back to rooming riders together, EF Education-Nippo has opted to continue with separate rooms during the coronavirus pandemic.

Also read: Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Simon Pellaud the breakaway specialist

“It’s a bit strange because it’s a bit of a tradition to have a roommate for a whole grand tour,” Carr said. “I think it’s nicer because whenever everyone gets together for dinner it means that you’re really talkative and you haven’t really spoken to anyone. I think that previously when you have a roommate you interact a bit less at dinner.

“It will be difficult to go back because you get so used to spreading out across a whole room whereas normally you have your side of the room, but I haven’t had that all year. I’m getting used to that.”

The 22-year-old Carr is a grand tour debutant just five months into his WorldTour tenure and his first full season as a professional. He stepped up to ProTeam level in 2020 with Nippo Delko One Provence but raced just 19 days due to COVID-19 restrictions disrupting the calendar.

His victory at Prueba Villafranca-Ordizaiko Klasika attracted the attention of the EF Education-Nippo team and he joined them over the winter. Carr had hoped to build his reputation over the season before riding a grand tour and was surprised to be heading to Italy this May.

“I was hoping I was going to do the Vuelta this year because of it being the last grand tour. I was hoping that I would have time by then to earn a spot so to be doing the Giro I wasn’t expecting that at all,” he said. “It’s obviously a really positive thing and it will definitely speed up my development.

“I’d say that it was being in the break was the highlight so far from a personal perspective, but obviously we have Hugh in the GC and he’s going really well. It’s really nice every time we kick off for another stage and he’s still up there.”

Dual nationalities

Carr races under a British license but he lives and grew up in France, rising through the cycling ranks there rather than in the UK. His family is from Wales; he was born in England but moved to France shortly afterward.

He speaks with an English accent when conversing in English, and with a French accent when speaking French. Place him in either environment, and you would be assured that he is 100 percent one or the other.

Sometimes, Carr feels as though he adopts separate personas depending on the situation.

Also read: Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Antoine Duchesne bouncing back from disappointment

“I’ve noticed I seem to act differently when I’m in a French environment. I almost have a slightly different personality in terms of maybe being a bit more reserved,” he told VeloNews. “I know some people who had a similar upbringing who maybe get some of the languages mixed up but that’s never really been the case with me. It’s been a bit of a switch.

“Either I’m completely French or completely English. If I didn’t tell people they wouldn’t realize.”

Before Carr took to cycling, his first passion was motorsport and he began racing karts as a child. He picked up his love of all things motorized from his father and it is something that he has continued to enjoy.

“When I was growing up, my dad was really into motorsport,” he said. “I grew up watching MotoGP and Formula One. I’ve never been to Formula One because it’s always been too expensive, but I’ve been to a couple of MotoGP races in Barcelona, which isn’t too far from where we are. When I was really young, I rode bikes and got into karting and I’ve always been interested in the mechanical side of it.”

If he was allowed to — and if he knew he would come away in one piece — Carr would love to tackle the Isle of Man TT Course on a motorbike. The 37.2-mile circuit is entirely on public roads, many of them narrow with stone walls lining each side.

“I watch it every year and it’s something with my dad that we said we would go and watch. It looks incredible,” Carr said. “I’ve always said I would like to do a TT if I knew I wasn’t going to crash because I can’t get my head around how they do it. It’s very impressive to watch.”

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