Interview: Andy Tennant motivated and ready for London return

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Interview: Andy Tennant motivated and ready for London return

London 2012 reserve insists no more motivation is needed for World Championship success as Olympics beckon

Nobody remembers the reserves. Ask football fans who played for England at the 1966 World Cup and few will name Jimmy Greaves over hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst, despite the fact Hurst got into the team only after Greaves was injured. Likewise, England rugby fans will struggle to remember giant lock Simon Shaw’s contribution to the 2003 Rugby World Cup – mainly because he didn’t play a single minute of the tournament after being brought in as a replacement. The same rings true for Great Britain cyclist Andy Tennant.

Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Steven Burke and Ed Clancy took the gold medals and the plaudits at the London 2012 Olympics after smashing the team pursuit world record in the final. Tennant – the reserve – is never mentioned. He doesn’t even have a medal as – unlike at the World Championships earlier in the year, where Great Britain also took gold – he did not race the qualification round either.

Great Britain’s team pursuit team will be gunning for World Championship success in London next month (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

It is little surprise, therefore, the Wolverhampton-born rider, now 28, doesn’t cherish the memories of London 2012 in the same way his team-mates do as he prepares to return to the Lee Valley VeloPark boards for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in March.

“I don’t regard it as an Olympics for me, at all, in 2012,” he says. “I’ve almost forgotten about it in many ways!”

Since then, however, Tennant has remained an integral part of the men’s endurance squad; a regular fixture in an ever-changing line-up, which now includes Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.

He has also enjoyed success on the boards at the Revolution Series – helping Team PedalSure to second in the winter’s Elite Championship.

Training with the pros: Andy Tennant’s track cycling tips

And Tennant returns to London insisting he has no point to prove other than booking his spot on the plane to Rio – though a medal wouldn’t go amiss, of course.

“I’ve competed at London since, I’ve done World Cups there and the Revolution Series so the Olympics has disappeared in my mind,” Tennant adds. “The World Championships will be the biggest competition I’ve done there – there is no bigger competition at the end of the day, apart from the Games – so it will be nice to go there and try and win a medal so there will be no demons ever there then.”

While talk of the current track cycling season inevitably focuses on the Olympic Games, Tennant insists the World Championships should not be under-stated, representing as they do a significant milestone in their own right.

Lee Valley is likely to be packed, with the last few tickets now on sale, and Tennant believes the Worlds offer a great chance to lay down a marker for the summer – even if he is refusing to look too far into the future just yet.

Tennant has played an integral role in the Great Britain men’s endurance squad in recent years (pic: Alex Broadway/SWPix.com)

“You just look at the Worlds and then at the Olympics,” Tennant explains. “Obviously all the training is done with the Olympics in mind, so you try and go faster at the Olympics than at any other point, but the World Championships is a big target.

“It’s a big milestone in our thinking. How you get on there generally dictates how you get on at the Olympics. To go there and hopefully get a gold medal does set a precedent and gives you good morale for the last run-in to the Games.

“It doesn’t feel that much different to any other World Championships just because the Olympics are later in the year.”

Things have changed in the British Cycling camp since Tennant, Thomas, Kennaugh, Burke and Clancy headed to Melbourne in 2012 though, for their last major Championships before London 2012. They had to, in truth, as the rest of the cycling world caught up and an era of British dominance on the boards came under threat.

European team pursuit champions at the last three times of asking – Tennant having been a gold medal winner at all three – it is their rivals from Oceania instead who look to represent the biggest threat.

New Zealand beat Tennant, Burke, Clancy and Owain Doull into second place at the World Championships 12 months ago, while it was Australia victorious in the two preceding years.

Tennant says Heiko Salzwedel has brought in a very different method of training and preparation (pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix)

After Great Britain’s men failed to pick up a single medal at the 2014 World Championships, however, coach Heiko Salzwedel returned to head the men’s endurance squad, while Wiggins’ return to the track also saw him form an eponymous new team for the road – for whom Tennant rides – and both have been a huge fillip behind the scenes according to Tennant.

“I find training very different to what we did in the build up to London,” he explains. “We’ve done a lot more road racing and had more altitude training camps so the preparation has been very different to what it was for Melbourne in 2012.

Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins to ride World Championship Madison

“I think the training’s totally changed under Heiko. He’s got his principles that he believes work, but he’s also bought into some of the British Cycling principles. He would probably prefer only ten days on the track before an event, for example, whereas British Cycling like to have two-two-and-a-half weeks so he’s adopted that but he’s also brought in the altitude training and more road racing than what we did before.

“He’s got his philosophies, like any coach – a bit like a football manager when they take over with their staff, their coaches and their view on how to play. The way Heiko directs, the way he coaches us, and the direction he pushes us is different to what we had before.”

Indeed, to prove the point about increased road racing, just before speaking to us, Tennant had just returned from racing the Dubai Tour. And he believes the formation of Team Wiggins has made a huge difference both on and off-the-road.

“It’s great to be riding with the track team on Team Wiggins,” Tennant says. “It makes life simple for us really. That’s the way I’d describe it – it’s just easy.

“It makes our life a lot easier being in Team Wiggins than, for example, being at Madison-Genesis [where Tennant raced previously]. You don’t have to explain why you’re doing things.

Tennantsays the formation of Team Wiggins has made the track riders’ lives much easier (pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix)

“Heiko and the national team get priority which can make things difficult when you’re on a trade team. At the end of the day, when teams are paying you to race for them then you can understand why they get frustrated when you’re not available, and you end up being pulled left, right and centre and can’t do certain things because you have your national duties.

“It makes life a lot easier when you don’t have to explain those decisions. It takes one stress out of anything which is nice really.

“It gives a good vibe and then we’ve got some fantastic riders in that team with, for example, Owain Doull who was up there at the Tour of Britain. We’ve got a fantastic team and the team’s got bigger this year with 20 members – I think there will be some bigger and better things to come from Team Wiggins.”

Indeed, of the men’s endurance squad for London, only Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) and Clancy (Condor-JLT) do not race for Team Wiggins now. Though with the World Championships on the horizon, it is back to the track for all of them in the run-in to the event.

“The first block of track training started last week,” Tennant explains. “Really, as soon as we got back from Dubai, everything was track-orientated.

“Even the road rides will be specific efforts for the track or just general recovery. The bulk of the work now will be mainly done on the track.”

Tennant missed out on London 2012 – serving as reserve for the team pursuit – but says he needs no more motivation for success in 2016 (pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

Tennant hopes to race two events in London, having also put himself forward for the individual pursuit. Ranked fifth in the world in the event, though it is no longer part of the Olympics it will present the Wolverhampton man with another chance to prove his worth. But Tennant insists he needs no more motivation to perform, even if finding that motivation can be a little easier in an Olympic year.

“I don’t think I’ve got any more motivation than I’ve had before,” he states. “I want to be in the team pursuit team every year.

“[But] going to the Olympics is a lot bigger than your standard year, and you are willing to put your life a bit more on hold than you would otherwise. You have to balance your lifestyle at times, and it is quite difficult because you can’t live like a monk all the time, so you do have to find a fine balance.

“But when you’ve got an Olympics around the corner, missing out on those few things that you might like to have done is that little bit easier. If you’ve got a target and something you’re trying to achieve, you can reason with yourself more easily. You can motivate yourself better.”

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.

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