SANTA CRUZ, CA—Halfway through 2013, Carolina Gomez-Villafañe already earned herself the most improved rider award in Northern California. In 2012, she made regular appearances on B Women’s podiums before launching into the Elite A’s for 2013. The transition did little to hamper her results, as the 21-year old collected her first two Elite victories with back-to-back wins at the Lion of Fairfax of Los Altos and Surf City #1. Going beyond the local scene, Gomez-Villafañe traveled to the Holy Week of Cross in October where she finished 21st and 22nd at Days 1 and 2 of the Providence Cyclocross Festival. NCCN caught up with Gomez-Villafañe for some insight regarding her performance leap in 2013.
2013 seems to be a break out year for you. Was last year  your first season racing cross?
Last year was my first year racing cross. I did mountain biking cross-country during high school. I was looking for a sport I could join since I didn’t want to do P.E… Julian, my oldest brother said he’d buy me a bike if I joined the MTB club. I thought it was a sweet deal. Senior year I stopped racing, and just last August  I picked up a cross bike to test the waters again. I got hooked.
You were in the B’s last year and now you’re winning back-to-back A races? What’s your secret?
110% commitment and surrounding myself with supportive people. Tobin [Ortenblad] has definitely been a big aspect of my secret. Since day one this season, he has been helping me—from going with me on training rides and explaining workouts, to making sure the recovery drink is on the table when I walk inside the house after a ride. He gets an A+ for BF status.
You mentioned starting with a new coach this season tell me a little about him.
Chris McGovern is awesome, first of all, it’s like the Gods of cycling sent him to me. I basically met him through Tobin at Sea Otter. I remember calling him and saying, “Whatever you’re doing with Tobin is working, you must be good.” Chris lives in Nevada City and owns the bike shop Real Wheels. He also coaches through Cyclelution. I looked him up after our first phone call, and the first thing I saw was a picture of him in the Jelly Belly cross outfit. “He’s legit,” I thought. Outside of being a great rider, he is a genuine person that truly cares about his relationships with his athletes. He is heavily involved and always has time to chat. I have definitely woken him up in the middle of the night before.
Are you going to school? Working? Both? How’s your schedule and where do you find time to make improvements so quick.
I just graduated from West Valley last semester. I am currently not in school and the plan is to go to school during spring and take the fall off. This is where the 110% commitment to cross kicks in. I am working at Family Cycling Center with the agreement that during the season I’d be traveling and having specific days off for racing.
My schedule is a bit hectic at times. Trying to fit everything in was a big challenge when I first started working with Chris. We have definitely nailed it by now though. On Mondays I send him what my week looks like and he makes a training schedule around it. It works quite well. I put in real work on my days off. Being able to manage my time, and stay focused on my goals helps me prioritize time.
Tell me about Providence and your first UCI experience? How’s the East Coast racing compare with sunny California?
My first UCI experience was like a slap on the face, literally. Cross Vegas was first, and that course was just straight up pain. I was placed at the back, and a big crash happened at the beginning. The race started, then it stopped, and then it started again. My legs felt like rocks the first lap, and then I figured I had to race my own race.
The East Coast was a different deal. Even though I would start dead last EVERY race, my goal was a race within a race. I was going to race my best race and test my limits. Testing my limits is what made me not only mentally stronger but also do better each time. I still haven’t figured out what my limit is, and that’s the fun of it each time. The last race at Providence was the best. Feeling like I gave it my all, I had an epiphany; I was meant for this brutal sport.
The racing in sunny California is definitely my favorite. Local racing even though is not the race pace I experienced on the East Coast is much more meaningful. It’s a big old family, and that is exactly what attracted me to the sport—the fun of racing rad bikes, getting dollar hand-ups and eating good BBQ. How can you not be stoked about that?
I noticed that they listed Argentina as your racing country for the Providence results? Even though we proudly claim you as our own in Nor Cal, would or could you potentially race at World’s one day for Argentina?
I proudly claim myself as a Nor Cal chick 😉 The thought of racing at Worlds for Argentina has definitely been tempting. Argentina doesn’t have a cyclo-cross team yet, but I have asked about it and it looks like something that I could potentially do. Worlds is not my main focus right now though—plus I will be an American citizen by 2014.
What are your plans and goals for the rest of the season?
As a team we are working on a couple trips that involve UCI racing so that I can get points for next year to avoid the repeat of this year of starting on the back row. If I can secure some points this year, then next year will look a lot better. Other main goals are working with the mental aspect of the sport and really owning that I am an athlete because I didn’t feel like one at the beginning of the season. For this I have the lovely Kristin Keim. I started working with her a month and a half ago. I guess you can call her one of my secret weapons, haha. She is a sports psychologist, and helps me cope with multiple things that I struggle with. Chris recommended her because he knows I have a lot on my plate usually, and talking with Kristen alleviates any worries I have.
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