Carlos and Raúl García Pierna

The coincidence of causality

08/17/2022 · By Javi de Munck
The cyclists and brothers García Pierna
Carlos and Raúl face their second year as professionals. ©Rafael Fabrés

The blood of winners, of competitors, of cyclists, courses through the veins of Carlos and Raúl García Pierna. Both brothers —accompanied by their father, former cyclist Félix García Casas— train every day to carve out a niche for themselves among the best in the world. If, on top of that, they do so together as part of the same team, Kern Pharma, we have a unique cocktail.

In the small municipality of Tres Cantos (Madrid), we find two cyclist brothers, Carlos and Raúl García Pierna (1999 and 2001). Since they were little, they’ve dreamt of rubbing shoulders with the best, feeling the adrenaline and satisfaction of crossing that finish line before anyone else, in front of a devoted audience. A special and attractive coincidence happens in the eye of the spectator: two brothers like Carlos and Raúl compete professionally in the same cycling team, Kern Pharma. A coincidence that cannot be understood without several causalities. Both have dominated amateur and lower categories with achievements like the U23 Spanish National Time Trial Championship (Raúl) or 13th place at the Young Rider Giro d’Italia (Carlos). These are experiences that, they explain, they’re using to replicate their success at a professional level: Carlos’ debut at the UCI World Tour and a gold medal at the Spanish National Time Trial Championship, as well as his first time taking part in the Vuelta a España, for Raúl.

How can they be such aces at such an early age? They tell us with honesty and a winning mentality. Raúl considers himself a “well-rounded cyclist”, while Carlos toughens up during “really hard races, for people who keep up well”. In these kinds of competitions, the older brother feels more comfortable. Two vastly different styles, but complementary to live of this sport. In fact, both agree that “to be a professional, you need to excel at something; there’s no use being good at everything.” The principle seems clear: border on excellence at everything or shine bright at 'something'.

“To be a professional, you need to excel at something; there’s no use being good at everything” (Raúl)

“Work to improve.” With this mantra, the younger brother explains how they’ve reached the current level. We must add discipline to the cocktail of success that both Carlos and Raúl emphasise so much, and which they can show off. They acquired this discipline from an early age thanks to the advice and training sessions with their father, former cyclist Félix García Casas, when they weren’t even old enough to compete. Carlos remembers it fondly: “We followed cycling a lot and also went out with him on our bikes around Tres Cantos. In the end, it’s thanks to our father, he installed this gene in us [laughs]”.

Support beyond the professional realm
The Pierna brothers prioritise professionalism over their brotherhood when competing, as Carlos declares: “we each do a different type of race, but when we do coincide, we treat each other like any other teammate.” Raúl reveals his more sentimental side regarding this topic due to the dangers of competing: “You’re always more alert when there’s a fall in case it’s your brother, but as Carlos says, we don’t coincide much”.

Nevertheless, when they’re not on the track, being family makes a difference to these two cyclists. They have each other during the most delicate moments of the season: “We talk about the different problems we have to face professionally, the different situations that arise. We try to give our opinion on what the other is going through based on our knowledge as cyclists,” explains Raúl. His older brother adds that particular advantage that can only happen in the intimacy of home: “We can tell each other things more directly, and share our concerns we have knowing that, because we’re brothers, they won’t go any further. That trust is a bonus.”

Mutual admiration
If being siblings affects the development of their careers, working side by side every day makes their mutual admiration grow exponentially. “I’d highlight Carlos’ capacity to train and take care of himself, to have a goal and pursue it. I’m kind of jealous (both laugh) of his capacity to give 100%, which I think we do share when it comes to training, but he’s also able to replicate when taking care of himself, which I struggle more with,” says Raúl.

Carlos shows his pride as older brother: “I’d emphasise Raúl’s mindset. His ability to pursue his goals and be up to the task when it’s time to perform and achieve, especially under greater pressure or during difficult moments. That’s when he always knows how to manage his emotions, and grows.”

“We share our concerns we have knowing that, because we’re brothers, they won’t go any further. That trust is a bonus” (Carlos)

Talent for cycling
Elite sports are known for being tough and demanding. A discipline like cycling accentuates that physical tone and can become the main building block for a cyclist’s success, but which is the role of talent? “Obviously, to reach the elite, you need to have ‘something’, whether through genetic or intuitive factors; in our world, talent is often innate,” confirms Carlos. “Perseverance, the daily grind, always wanting more, and preparing yourself in the best way possible are the best travel companions to that ‘something’ we talk about. Not everyone can make it. There’s always a stroke of luck, but I'd say that’s what talent is to me,” concludes the older of the Pierna brothers.

Raúl backs his brother’s words and specifies: “Talent could be split into two aspects: physical and psychological. The first consists of having that genetic ‘something’, that large ‘driving force’. The second involves being mentally strong, working on it so that all the aspects that influence your performance are under control. In the end, psychology is 60-70% of cycling.”

New life and all eyes on the future
Carlos and Raúl face their second year as professionals. Their lives have changed, their daily pace can’t be compared to a normal person’s and they’re aware of the limitations and sacrifices they’ve exposed themselves to. “The level is much higher, especially in terms of technical level, the teams’ means, and infrastructure. It’s really noticeable. We don’t spend much time at home, but in the end, we always make time to rest and do things we enjoy,” explains Carlos.

Raúl underlines how hard it is to get to where they are and how tough it is to stay there: “There are only between 900 and 1,000 professionals in the entire world. and you're racing against them, against the best. At the beginning you start and go “à bloc”, you suffer and suffer, and that’s what makes you improve, testing your limits. At amateur level, we could compete year-round at 80% and achieve good results. The professional level is really high and if you’re not giving 100%, in peak form, it’s really hard to perform and achieve results.”

The Pierna brothers have set their sights on the future, but always looking at the short or medium term. “After winning the gold at the Spanish National Time Trial Championship, I’m focused on increasing my level, and therefore being in front at the races. For the upcoming years, I’d like to carry on growing and sooner than later be capable of doing week-long laps, five-day races, or even classic cycle races,” notes Raúl.

“There are only between 900 and 1,000 professionals in the entire world, and you're racing against them, against the best” (Raúl)

Carlos agrees with his brother: “I think I’m also along those lines. It’s important to see progress year on year, that you’re attaining the level, and that you’re there. Due to my traits, I think that hard, long-distance races is where I can stand out more. From there, I try to grow stronger in those types of races, improve my weaknesses and, as my father used to tell me, the important thing is to replicate what you did at amateur level at a professional level.”

This sports phenomenon —brothers who reach elite levels in their discipline—, like the Gasol or Márquez brothers, is a milestone that may seem like a coincidence in the history of sports. Nevertheless, alongside chance circumstances there are others that are no more than the consequence of effort, talent, and hard work. Or, in other words, the coincidence of causality. And the García Pierna brothers know a lot about that - don't forget their surnames!