Rouleur Classic

Portrait: Andy Tennant

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Photographs: PedalSure, Alex Whitehead -
Portrait: Andy Tennant

There are many in British cycle sport who would like to see Andy Tennant crown his career with an Olympic gold medal. In August, he may finally be given the chance.
Tennant was, of course, ‘the fifth Beatle’ at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the non-riding member of a men’s team pursuit squad that won gold in front of a deafeningly partisan crowd in the Lea Valley velodrome.
He will return there in three weeks time to compete for a world title – his second, if he and a squad led by Sir Bradley Wiggins is successful. Wiggins was another absentee from the victorious British quartet four years ago, but he had the small consolations of victory at the Tour de France and a gold medal in the Olympic time-trial.
Tennant’s Olympic experience was marked only by disappointment, though his story has remained entwined with Wiggins. He races on the road with Team Wiggins and will soon line up on the boards again with cycling’s knight of the realm, this time at the last significant track engagement before the Olympic Games in Rio.
So what’s it like to race with the most successful British cyclist of all time?
“The media attention for Brad is whole lot greater; you’d be a fool not to see that. The boys don’t want to let him down. Winning gold with Brad would make it that bit more special. It would be the next best thing after a home Olympics, I’d imagine: to win gold with the greatest British athlete of all time.”
He adds the usual caveats regarding foregone conclusions and guarantees i.e. that there are none, but Tennant is on a roll. When we speak, he has recently returned from the Dubai Tour where he flew the colours for Team Wiggins by spending stage three in the breakaway.

Mixing it on even terms with the WorldTour’s heavyweights has become something of a signature for the Wiggins boys, whether it be in the desert or Yorkshire. Is there an obligation to perform, given the name on the jersey?
“No, there’s no obligation,” Tennant says. “It’s probably the most relaxed team I’ve ever been part of. I was never going to win that stage [in the Dubai Tour], straight after Challenge Mallorca and all the travel, but it’s a matter of bringing exposure and credibility to the team.”
It is loyalty then and a sense of professionalism, rather than obligation that motivates Tennant, and in this regard he differs little from others who ply the pro bike rider’s trade, whether it be amid the noise and intensity of a packed velodrome or out in the heat and dust of a desert road. Fly the flag for your team and bury yourself for your colleagues, and they will do the same for you.
Wiggins is not the only track star with whom Tennant has raced who might command an effort greater than normal. At the opening round of the Revolution Series in Manchester last October, Tennant partnered Iljo Keisse, a six-time winner of the Ghent Six.
“His credentials are second-to-none when it comes to six day racing,” Tennant reflects, “and it was nice riding for PedalSure, even if I did get beaten by my own [Wiggins] team-mates.”
The shifting alliances of track racing mean impromptu combinations and often pitting a rider against his colleagues. In the case of the Revolution Series, the opportunity to pair former world champion Tennant with six-day king Keisse must have been too good to resist and the banners of Etixx-Quick Step and Team Wiggins were temporarily set aside.

It will be the colours of Great Britain that Tennant pulls on for his next engagement. He is expecting a vociferous crowd at Lea Valley, a venue that has been a fortress for the national team since its opening event, a round of the Track World Cup that served as the Olympic test event in 2012.
“We hope to go in and win,” Tennant says. “I’d be lying if I said we didn’t.
“Expectation? A medal shot. We don’t know what the other teams are going to bring at the end of the day, but we’re in contention. That’s the only way we can look at. Our road form means we’re looking good.
“It’s the first world championships held in Britain since 2008 and being in London in an Olympic year makes it extra special. To win gold on home turf would be a fantastic achievement.”
Indeed it would. But there is another, bigger prize on offer this year, and Tennant admits that while he and the team is focused on London, it is impossible to block out Rio completely.
“It’s always in the back of your mind. Now London is three weeks away, Rio is irrelevant, but the last 12 months have been building up for the Olympics. Hopefully, we’ll improve further from London, go back into the gym, do more speed work, make that next step up in various areas. I want to get there again and this time ride and race and come away with an Olympic medal, hopefully gold.”
He pauses, perhaps mindful of his last experience at an Olympic Games. “But there are no guarantees.”
Right again. But if there were, Tennant – hard working, good-humoured and a fixture of British cycle sport for a decade – would deserve one.
Andy Tennant is an ambassador for PedalSure, sponsors of the 2015/16 Revolution Series

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