With a rapidly growing contingent of young Spanish-speaking riders, you might expect Team Ineos – the meticulous masters of detail – to have invested in someone to bring them up to speed with English to try to integrate them more smoothly into the British team.
So who has Richard Carapaz been using as his language tutor since he signed for the squad this year? He smiles a warm, endearing smile and with an almost guilty laugh he says, “SpongeBob.”
The Ecuadorian starts our interview with a jovial “hey man”, a greeting that was probably all the reigning Giro d’Italia champion could muster in English when he joined Team Ineos from Movistar last winter.
“When I first met the team in Majorca in December at our training camp, my English was zero,” he reveals to Cycling Weekly. “But now I can say one or two things, order some food and I understand things when others are talking. I think in a few months I will improve a lot.”
And that’s where the yellow SquarePants-wearing sponge comes into our conversation, as it turns out that it is the TV programme, a children’s favourite, that he watches most frequently to help his language development. “I like cartoons and it’s one of my favourites.
“I know some of the episodes off by heart and from memory so I repeat them in English and learn from it. There are many good episodes to learn from.”
This baby Richard was raised in rural surroundings in El Carmelo in northern Ecuador, 800km from the capital Quito and at around 3,000m of altitude. His young life revolved around animals.
“When I lived with my parents, we didn’t live deep in the countryside, we didn’t have a big farm, but we had a lot of animals,” he says.
“We had cows, hens, turkeys, pigs. It is not really a cosy place, but it is a place that I always return to, especially with the kids because I enjoy it a lot.”
Carapaz spent the majority of lockdown back home, living away from his parents’ house and animals in a pueblo “a little bit bigger and a little different”. But he visited his parents a lot and his Instagram shows him milking a cow in late June.
Are animals important to him? “Yes. I like them a lot. I enjoy them. But above all it is peaceful and tranquil. Waking up there is wonderful. It is really calming and my wife and I go a lot.”
Read the rest of this feature in this week’s Cycling Weekly magazine. Available to buy in newsagents, WHSmiths and supermarkets. You can also take out a subscription to Cycling Weekly, get a discount and have the magazine delivered to your door every week.