If you talk with a cyclocross racer or fan and refer to an Elite cyclocross racer from Northern California representing another country at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor, 90 percent of them will assume you’re talking about Czech Katerina Nash, a few people will think you’re talking about Katerina Hanušová, and the rest will have no idea who you’re talking about.
But there is another racer like Nash who hails from California, will be racing in Tabor, and isn’t an American.
Carolina “Caro” Gomez Villafañe, from Los Gatos, California, will be lining up at the Hoogerheide UCI World Cup and the 2015 World Championships in Tabor in a light blue and white jersey to proudly represent Argentina. In doing so, the 23-year-old racer will be the country’s first-ever racer at the Cyclocross World Championships.
“I’ll be the first Argentine ever!” Gomez Villafañe exclaimed.
Gomez Villafañe spent the last season racing domestic races for the Vanderkitten cyclocross team, taking a few UCI top tens and dominating the 102 racers in the non-title race at Nationals in Austin (the only race she could compete in because of her citizenship).
Gomez Villafañe comes from a large family and is the fourth of six siblings. But she’s the only one of her family without American citizenship.
“I’m the only Argentine,” Gomez Villafañe told Cyclocross Magazine. “Everyone has dual citizenship besides me. I haven’t filed the paperwork yet. I could become an American, but I just haven’t done it.”
In cyclocross terms, it works out well though, as has a clear path to the World Championships and will be making history just by competing.
“I wanted to represent Argentina. The US has enough riders to represent, so why not add another country to it,” she said.
Unlike Ireland, which refused to send any racers to Worlds, even self-funded, Argentina was willing to send Gomez Villafañe. She just had to do the work and cover the expenses. While she will be the only Argentine in Tabor, she’ll have help.
“I travel to Tabor, and Chris McGovern, my coach, he’s going to have the Argentine credentials,” Gomez Villafañe explained. “It will be he and I, and Vaclav Svatos, who Katerina Nash recommended [to be a mechanic].”
Her rapid ascension to the Worlds stage is impressive. Just three seasons ago, she was finishing mid-pack at local races and honing her skills. Last year, she sampled a few UCI races during New England’s Holy Week for Team Rambuski Law. Now, after her first full UCI season, she’ll be at the World Cup in Hoogerheide and then at Worlds in Tabor.
Heading into Worlds, she’s focused on her performance, not her result. “I hope to have a clean race and feel like I gave it my all,” she said. “I’d have to see…top twenty would be extremely nice but I’m too concerned with placing. I’m just hoping I have a really good race.”
She’ll first compete in Hoogerheide at the World Cup this weekend to “get a feeling of what Worlds would be like,” and will be working with a triathlete who is hosting her and will be her mechanic in the pits.
At Nationals in Austin, it was a family affair. Her younger sister Sofia raced to a ninth in the Collegiate D1 race despite a mechanical and crash (and featured in one of the more viral photos), while brother Ben competed in the Junior 15-16 race on Monday after several dominant performances in the B Men’s races in the Bay Area.
You can expect to see more of this family on podiums in the US, but Carolina will be the only one wearing the colors of Argentina at Worlds.