After being selected for the World Track Championships on 2-6 March at the Lee Valley Velodrome, we spoke to Andy Tennant about his career, bacon sandwiches and the Tuscan Team GB camp.
The Cyclist: How are you finding riding for team Wiggins? Is it any different to any of the other teams you’ve ridden for in the past?
Andy: It’s very similar to when I was with Rapha Condor-Sharp really, it’s relaxed, it’s nice and easy, everything is built around our track program and we’re given the best platform for Rio. The staff there are great, they’re all ex-GB staff; they all know the score and know what it takes.
And then obviously we’ve got a great bunch of sponsors within the team as well, so you know we are well supported. I’d say it’s my favourite team I’ve ever ridden for, and then second behind that would be Rapha Condor-Sharp with John Herety.
Going back right to the start of your career, well not right at the start but near enough, you were with Team GB, based out in the famous Tuscany camp. It produced some of the best cyclists around - why do you think that program was such a success?
I don’t think it was Italy per se, personally, I think there’s a good deal of racing out there which is good but you can find similar racing or, you know, racing that would suit particular riders better all around Europe. I think they had a good crop of talented lads if I’m honest. The thing is, if you’d put us in France, or Germany, or anywhere I think we would’ve been successful in terms of the riders. I don’t think it was Italy that made it that shall we say. However, I do think that we owe a lot to Rod Ellingworth in that respect; he was the mastermind behind that academy program. I think he ran a really tight ship. Obviously you had myself, Ian Stannard and Ben Swift in that first year and we were all keen, we all wanted to succeed in our different disciplines, so I think that was what it was, the drive for us all to be the best we could. And also, then, the location, if that makes sense.
Unfortunately that doesn’t sound romantic, I know. I should be saying it was the Tuscan hills and this, that and the other but I unfortunately don’t think it was.
Several older pros have discussed the necessity for British riders to move abroad to become effective racers. Do you think now that that’s still the case or are we going to see more and more British riders staying within British teams?
Beforehand the British teams wouldn’t get into the big races in Europe whereas now Britain is renowned as a great cycling nation. We are getting into those bigger races abroad now, and more big races are coming to the UK, which gives you a chance to show yourself. I think there’ll be a couple of obvious choices over the next few years for developing riders and I think there’ll always be people who go over to France, Italy and all these teams because if you weigh 57 kilos, you’re going to go up mountains really quickly, and you want to be in a team that’s racing those sort of races more often. In a British team you’re probably not going to get that, so I think you will always have certain riders that go to different areas. I think the people that go to the Belgian teams and stuff like that will reduce. Those sort of riders will probably stay in Britain, and I think that will help the British teams. Obviously it’ll increase the standard of riding in Britain and obviously if that increases, everything gets better anyway, so I think we’ll be looking back at the 80s, with the Kellogs tour and other races very soon.
What first got you into cycling?
I was a bit of a fat kid when I started, well, a very fat kid. I went down to the local club - Wolverhampton Wheelers - and they had an exhibition on, and I took part in this exhibition, and we did like this pretend mock mountain bike race on the Saturday, and I was shocking, I was crap. The next day they had a cafe run and we went and got a bacon sandwich - 20 miles or so - and that was it, I fell in love. I went out on my mountain bike and every weekend I’d do this cafe run on a Saturday; I think it was the bacon sandwiches and the cakes that seduced me more than bike riding, because I was just utterly crap. I really can’t tell you how bad I was.
I didn’t really get good until I was 16, 17. But I think the freedom that everyone experiences - the bike is your first sense of freedom away from your parents, you get on your bike and you just disappear for a couple of hours and you ride to the field and play football, or do whatever. I think that sense of freedom’s still there on the bike, and I go places that I’d wouldn’t drive in a car, I’d never specifically go to Bakewell, it’s not something that’d I’d particularly do in a car, but I go ‘oh yeah I’ll ride there and have a cafe stop.’ So i think that’s probably what draws me into it.
What’s your favourite thing about being a professional cyclist?
I’d like to say it’s that I can eat lots of chocolate and cakes but I’m not meant to eat them, but I still do eat them. But, I’m not really a geek on it, I just enjoy riding my bike every now and again. Sometimes I definitely don’t enjoy riding it though. That’s not all the time, I assure you, sometimes I resent the thing, but I like the opportunity it provides. Whether that’s traveling, racing abroad or just meeting new people.
I had a heart operation as a kid so I’m an ambassador for British Heart Foundation. I get to go to some cool, interesting events. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time or anything like that, but every now and again you get to go to a special ball or event and they’re always quite cool. I think it all comes back to the fact that I just enjoy riding my bike and being able to ride it with new people in new places is always an enjoyable experience.
What’s your least favourite thing about being a professional cyclist?
Saddle sores and muscular pain. They’re the two worst things I’d say. You always get them at some point in life. So those two and I’d say restricting yourself on what you can do. So you have to miss out on a lot of social gatherings and friends and family commitments. You miss out on things that you’d really like to do, and those little things add up at times. You don’t realise how much you miss them until you go to them, but then I think the positives outweigh those sacrifices, That’s why I still do it.
Andy has recently been appointed as a PedalSure Ambassador. PedalSure cover you and your bike, uniquely their policies cover personal injury, paying out even if an accident is your fault. They also cover amateur racing including track cycling. In January, Andy came in 2nd place in the overall Revolution Series for Team PedalSure.