Back in April, Andy Fenn (AN Post & GB) said that his goals for 2011 were to win a pro race, get a ride with a big team and ride the cobbled classics.
With victories in a stage of the Tour de Bretagne and the Memorial Van Coningsloo, he can cross ‘win’ off his list.
But this week he was also able to put a tick against ‘big team’ — they don’t come much bigger than Patrick Lefevre’s QuickStep; and that’s who have just signed the 21 year-old from Hertfordshire who qualifies to ride the Commonwealth Games for Scotland thanks to his mother being Scottish.
Fenn won his first British title at just 10 years old and then a clutch of British U16 track titles.
As a junior in 2008 he added to his collection of British medals on road and track; but more significantly he took European junior titles in the pursuit and team pursuit.
The same year he won the junior version of Paris — Roubaix and last year became British U23 road champion on a savage course around Pendle.
He was one of the animators of this year’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and in addition to his wins he picked up 5th in the U23 Paris-Roubaix.
He took time to talk to VeloVeritas soon after he had been granted permission by Lefevre to ‘go public.’
Congratulations, Andy — but firstly, how are you enjoying being Scottish?
“Thanks, yeah, it’s good – the Commonwealth Games were a great experience for me.”
You’re one of Brian Smith’s Braveheart Fund assisted riders?
“Yes, Brian organised things for me when it became clear that I had eligibility for Scotland — it’s been a great help to me.”
When we spoke in April, you told me about your goals — you’ve certainly achieved them.
“Definitely! I got my wins and I’ll be with Omega Pharma QuickStep for next year.
“Back at the training camps I was put in touch with Paul De Geyter — he’s Tom Boonen’s manager — and he began to look out for a contract for me.
“HTC folding caused waves in the market, there are a lot of riders out there looking for a contract — but I’ve got a two-year deal with QuickStep.
“I spoke to Brian Smith about riding for Endura but the QuickStep deal is too good not to take up — they’re planning a new training centre and talking about adopting the methods of the Anglo teams when it comes to bringing young riders through.”
Tell us about your win in the Bretagne.
“I got a late call for GB and the team setting up the stage win for me was a bit of pay back for all the work I did for Luke Rowe in the Tour of Normandie earlier in the season.
“I was in the top two in every sprint I contested in the race but couldn’t get the win — on the last stage everyone rode for me and I out-sprinted Morgan Kneisky (former World Scratch Champion) to take the stage.”
And there was the Memorial Philippe Van Coningsloo in Belgium.
“I was happy because that was a completely different kind of win; the race is a ‘Top Competition’ and UCI 1.2 – I was carrying forward good form from Paris-Roubaix, which was the week before.
“There was a split of 60, then 20 and I got away to win on my own by 47 seconds.”
You were fifth at the U23 Roubaix.
“Yes, but I punctured with seven K to go and had to change a wheel — there were
five of us away with 45 K to go and I realised I had a ‘slow.’
“I was thinking; ‘maybe I’ll get away with it?’ but we went through a cobbled sector and I realised I had to change wheels.
“I chased hard to get back but the Dutchman, Ramon Sinkeldam had slipped away — I decided to go after him, it was all or nothing.
“I don’t know if I’ll be riding Paris-Roubaix in 2012, it’ll be difficult to get in that team!”
You must be happy with how 2011 went?
“AN Post was a good step, yes.
“We got the wild cards for Qatar and Oman which was a good experience — getting used to the speed and crosswinds.
“And we rode the likes of Kuurne and Nokere Koers — no small races, really.
“AN Post is a development team but they’ve had a good year with a lot of wins and placings.”
What were the biggest lessons you took out of this year?
“About living the life of a pro — I had my own apartment, which gives you more freedom but you have to be more disciplined.
“Being on the UK cycling academy was a good grounding, we learned a lot from Max Sciandri, so AN Post and Belgium wasn’t too much of a culture shock.
“This year has certainly broadened my experience.”
Do you know if you’ll be at the Worlds?
“I’m certainly on the ‘long’ list but the final selection won’t be made until after the Tour de l’Avenir and Tour of Britain.
“Depending on how those go we’ll have five or six riders at the start.”
Worlds apart, what else is on the agenda?
“The Tour of Britain, the Franco-Belge and maybe a few races in October.
“I’m looking forward to the Tour of Britain but it’s a hard race to call and control — a big break always goes early and that defines the race.”
Will you be going home to England for the winter?
“Yes, I’m not sure of my exact plans yet but I’ll ride the track at Manchester and there will be training camps with the team.
“We haven’t discussed my programme for 2012 yet but the idea is to build the young riders up, not throw them in at the deep end.”
Goals for 2012?
“To find my place in the team, do my job and learn as much as possible as fast
Final question, Nico Eeckhout’s perpetual suntan, does he have a sun bed at home?
“It is pretty much year round, yes – but I’ve never asked him.”