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To properly capture the RHC Racer’s POV we’ve partnered with Specialized’s five-man five-person RHC super team: Specialized/Rocket Espresso. We’re talking about Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slovenia), Eamon Lucas (USA), Alec Briggs (UK), Stefan Schäfer (Germany), Carla Nafría (Spain); an international hit squad of RHC specialists with the express goal of taking the overall championship. To better understand their individual and team motivations, hopes, dreams, wants, needs and desires, as they relate (and don’t relate) to the RHC, MFS is going DEEP. We will live with them, sleep with them, follow them, eat with them, race with them, talk with them, video them, photograph them, write about them, etc etc etc. If we can mind meld with them, we’ll do it.

Twenty-and-tweleve Questions With Carla Nafría

What’s your name? Age? Hometown? Current Residence?

My name is Carla Nafría. I am 24 years old and I live in Madrid, although I spent my childhood in a small town in the north of Spain, Autol (La Rioja), where almost my whole family lives.

What/how/why/when did you start riding bikes?

From a very young age I liked to ride bikes. I loved chasing my dog Fuyur through the nearby parks. I also liked to run and I would spend all day running around the neighborhood. At 12 or 13 years I bought nice bike and started participating in duathlons, but then we moved and I had to give it up. It wasn’t until I turned 18 and moved to Madrid and met a group of friends who introduced me to riding fixies that I really started riding again. I spent the next four years riding and racing through the city with friends, and then two years ago I started seriously training and competing on the road as well.

What are your cycling career High Points? Awards, palmarès, life defining moments, wins, religious experiences, etc. Make a list. Don’t be shy.

From a young age I knew I was born for competition, and I hope to put together a long record of races and achievements. But things don’t always work out the way you hope, and due to certain circumstances in my life I have not been able to achieve everything that I had hoped for so far—but better late than never! I am fulfilling one of my dreams right now! I get to ride a bike, travel, compete… and I hope that it is only a matter of time before I start seeing the results I’ve been working towards.

What are your cycling career Low Points? Crashes, mistakes, fuck-ups, etc. Make a list.

LOL, I am the girl in the peloton who always falls… but I always get back up and carry on! As for istakes? Many! The most! I admit that I am at times a little bit of a disaster, doing things like not checking in on whats going on with the qualifying, not paying attention to course conditions, not messing with my tire pressure when it rains, etc, etc.

Do you have a day job? If so what is it? How does it make you a better racer? How does racing make you better at your day job?

Not exactly. I am a student studying sports medicine, although I am close to graduating and am in the process of setting up my own personal training business.

Manual for Speed thinks of the Red Hook Criterium series as the future of cycling. It’s urban, it’s gladiatorial, it’s thrilling, it’s colorful, it’s a knife fight. Cycling fans and non-cyclists think it’s thrilling. To us it represents an evolution of bicycle racing. What do you think about this idea? What makes these races so special?

I totally agree, I think RHC will end up being a truly great series of races in a new form, unlike any other.

Why do you care about racing? Why is it important to you?

I cannot imagine my life without competition. From the time I was little, I have looked for any excuse to compete against someone or something. I’m a pretty nervous person and I think that racing calms my nerves and gives me a peace of mind. Of course I am also addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes from competition, but I think that’s what makes me an athlete!

How do RHCs compare to regular crit racing? How do RHCs compare to World Tour stage racing?

Just because a person is a strong rider does not mean they can win RHC. RHC requires technique, finesse, and fearlessness. It is a completely different type of racing.

Do you think of yourself as a “gladiator of the street?” If not why not?

Hahah no! Despite how I may give off an image of being crazy, I recognize that you need to maintain a degree of sanity on the street, or else!

What’s the one thing you wish fans and non-racers understood about racing the RHC?

I would like them to know that RHCs are the best fixed gear races and that the competitors are the best racers from all over the world!

What would make RHCs even better?

Every year the RHC makes huge improvements! The only thing I can think of that perhaps could change is the schedule: the dates are so spread out, and even now the last one in Milan feels so far away.

In what ways are RHCs similar to the new Mad Max movie? Or any Mad Max movie?

I have not seen it! And, like Alec, I’m also late delivering this interview so I don’t think I’ll have time to watch it.

We imagine that you’ve raced non-fixed gear criteriums as well. What are the big differences between these two styles of racing? In terms of speed, strategy, time of day? Promotion? Location? Media? Vibes?

Yes, two years ago I started to race normal road races as well and they are so different, completely different. I don’t think it takes nearly the same amount of skill, or at least the same type of skill. Team strategy seems to be much more important in geared road races. But most importantly, the environment, the people, and the friendships I have found racing the RHCs are not comparable.

Is there a different sense of risk vs reward in the RHC races? What’s on the line for you as a racer?

When you give everything in a race there isa chance you’ll discover that you can push past your limits, past what you even thought was possible. When this happens, and it all clicks, and you find yourself standing on the podium, it really is the best feeling!

What about fixed gear racing makes it more interesting than geared bike racing?

It’s the whole thing. All of it. The pre-party, racing without brakes, the other racers, the fans, it’s a huge family, and then when its all over you all head to the after party! The RHCs are so completely different from any other type of racing.

Tell us about bike handling, reading a race, and fitness. How do you think about them as they apply to RHC racing? How are they different from regular crits?

As I said before, in the RHCs having good bike handling skills is just as important as being fit.

What about the event itself? These races have a party atmosphere. Lots of action going on before, during, and after the race. Are you into it? Do think it’s an important part of the culture of these races?

Of course, I’m always there! In fact I think I am always one of the last ones that goes to bed HAHA. I love to dance and party with my friends before, during, and after the races. It’s an essential part of racing the RHCs.

How intense is the contact between you and other riders when you’re out there on the course? If possible please use a metaphor to describe the feeling of this contact.

I’ve been thinking about this for days and I cannot think of any metaphor lives up to the feelings I have during a race.

What metaphor best describes the feeling of the race in general? For example: Scorpion Rumble, Badger Brawl, A Storm of Falling Glass, etc.

It’s like the movie 300: you have to be smart, strategic and patient for the perfect moment to attack.

Speaking of gladiatorial combat, what is your favorite action movie fight scene?

Any Jason Statham movie!

What is your biggest fear? What is your biggest hope?

I prefer not to think about anything that could distract me from fulfilling my dreams. My great hope is to start getting good results in the big races!

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a race? Don’t be shy, just own it. Dish.

Last year was the first time I traveled to Brooklyn. I trained super hard for the race but I didn’t change my cleats and they were totally worn out! By the final they were just gone. I started in seventh place, but I could not pull up with out pulling out of my pedals so I fell all the way back to last. I almost fell three times during the race because I kept pulling out of my pedal when coming into a corner. I threw the whole race just by not changing out my cleats. It was the most frustrating race I have ever had.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever done in a race? Tell us all about it!!!!!

Speaking of problems with cleats, last year at the RadRace #lastmanstanding, I was in first place when I fell in the final corner, with less than 50m to go. After the crash my bike wouldn’t pedal and I couldn’t get my shoe out of the cleat, so I took it off and left it hanging, picked up my bike, and finished the race on foot. The only thing going through my mind was the need to just finish the race!

Speaking of fear, one a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how afraid are you when you’re racing in one of these events? Please explain.

My desire to compete is greater than any fear. In spite of the many falls I’ve had, I’m not afraid of racing.

If you weren’t racing the RHC series what would you be doing?

Probably duathlons or triathlons.

Is racing the RHC series your dream? If not what’s your dream? Tell us about your dream.

I just want to compete at the highest level possible, and get on as many RHC podiums as I can.

Do you have non-bike, non-athletic related hobbies/interests? If so what are they?

My life revolves around the sport—almost exclusively—but I enjoy the cinema, cooking and eating.

Do you have a power animal? If not you should, please assign yourself one. What is it? Why?

I have always adored monkeys, and as a child I hung from anywhere. I still would, but I have to act a little more normally now.

What do you like most about your bike? Get specific.

The shape of the frame, the colors and the design are my favorite.

What do you like most about your sponsors? Go big and get specific!

I love having a Rocket Espresso coffee while I’m on the roller, warming up.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done, or thought about doing? Yes, we are going to publish this but that’s not relevant right now. More importantly, this is therapeutic. We’re asking this for your own good. Please take a solid step outside your comfort zone and tell us something you’ve never told anyone before. Trust, reach deep, it’s part of the process.

I can’t think of anything specifically, but according to my mother I do strange things every day.

Maybe you have a hero all lined up for this question, maybe you don’t. Either way, who is your hero and why? It does NOT need to be an athlete, but it’s okay if it is.

Usain Bolt.

Fun Facts With Carla Nafría

Favorite Food

Salmon.

Favorite Color

Green.

Favorite Band/Song

“Baba O’Riley” – The Who.

Favorite Movie/Video Game

I’m sure I have one, but I can’t think of anything right now.

Favorite Cartoon

The Coyote and the Roadrunner.

Favorite Book (Can You Read?)

I read a lot of books related to sports and training to educate myself.

Pre-Race Superstition

I am not superstitious, in fact the giraffe on my handlebars is not a symbol of luck. It’s just to make me laugh!

If you weren't a cyclist what would you be?

Runner, triathlete… circus performer? Haha.

What do you do when you're bored?

Eat. 🙁

Family

Always.

Guilty Pleasure(s)

Switching my brain off.

Sign?

Star sign? Capricorn.

Prized Possession

Harley.

If you were a superhero what would your power be?

Fly like ET with my bike.

What's most surprising about you?

I couldn’t tell you, you’d have to ask someone who was surprised by me.

Celebrity Crush

My memory is like Dori in Finding Nemo, so this changes every day

Bad Habits

I stress out everyone around me if I don’t do sports.

Favorite Quote

Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

Ticklish?

Yes.

What's your favorite smoothie!!!???

Anything with açaí.

Weirdest Dream

I do not know if it sounds weird, but I remember it vividly from my childhood. I dreamt that my grandmother cut off the neck of my other grandmother and a classmate who I did not have much of a relationship with. I woke up and was angry for days with my grandmother. [Yes, it does sound weird.—editor]

Hidden talents

I’ll think about this…

Fanmail Address

@carlanafri

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