VeloVeritas senior mentors and pundits Dave and Vik are always quick to let us know if there’s a name to be chasing over in the Flatlands – step forward Irishman Conor Hennebry who’s making a name for himself in the Kermis School.
In time honoured VV fashion we tracked the man down and ‘had a word.’
Thank you for speaking to us, Conor; the basics first – how old are you, where are you from and I believe you came in to cycling quite late?
“I am 23 years old this year, since February.
“I live just outside Carrick-on-Suir in County Waterford, Ireland.
“Yeah, I took up cycling when I was about 18 or so and decided to start taking it serious the last number of years, in the aim of improving as a rider.”
You were doing a Construction Management and Engineering degree – is that all behind you now?
“Yeah I finished a Construction Management and Engineering degree from the University of Limerick last May.”
How long are you in Belgium for – and how did you organise the trip?
“I came to Belgium the 28th of June and I am due to head back to Ireland on the 1st of September but I went home for a few days in the middle of the month.
“I got in contact with the manager of An Post Chainreaction cycling team to see if he would be able to put me up in a house while I do some racing in Belgium.”
Tell us about your team, Aquablue – what sort of support do you get?
“Aquablue is an amateur team in Ireland with Tim Barry as the manager.
“Aquablue is one of the best amateur teams in the country. They provide a lot of support for the riders including clothing, nutrition, helmets and race support with team cars.
“The team also provides young riders with the opportunity to learn from the more senior riders who have been racing for numerous years and have won almost every race on the Irish calendar.”
I’ve seen images of you in An Post colours?
“I just got some old kit from friends of mine when they were with An Post – I use it as training kit is all.”
Where’s ‘home’ in Belgium and what’s the cooking/cleaning/washing script?
“I live just outside a small town called Buggenhout which is about 20km from Brussels.
“Cooking, cleaning and all the rest is done by the people living in the house which is all shared out – so it isn’t too bad.”
How’s the Belgian weather been for you?
“The weather hasn’t been too bad, you get some really warm days but there are days when it rains constantly but all in all not too bad.”
How’s the Vlaams coming along?
“I don’t speak any Flemish unfortunately but it would be handy so I think I might try start learning a few words.”
You’ve been racking up some nice palmares, can you list them for us?
“I have won three races in Ireland this year:
- AmberGreen Tour of Ulster
- Deenside Cup
- John Beggs Memorial
“And then four kermises during my time in Belgium:
- Onze Lieve Vrouw Waver”
You must come across ‘combines’ – how do you fare in those situations?
“I don’t think I have come across combines.” [Lucky man, he’d know if he had ! ed.]
Are ‘Kermis Kings’ Guy Smet and Mario Willems still to the fore?
“I don’t really know, I don’t know many of the Belgian racers. I just go racing and give it my all.”
You rode the Kreiz Breizh with the Ireland team; that’s a hard stage race down there in Brittany – how was it?
“Yeah Kreiz Breizh was tough; I didn’t really have the best preparation done for it.
“Just a different style of racing but I enjoyed it.
“A lot more hills compared to here in Belgium.”
How’s the race scene in Ireland – and how does it compare to Flanders?
“The racing scene in Ireland is good during the early part of the year but it begins to dry up around July and August.
“The races differ a fair bit, usually in Ireland the races are hillier and run on larger circuits; not 18 laps of a six kilometre lap like here in the Belgian kermises.
“Irish races tend to aggressive for the whole race, races in Belgium are really aggressive for the first hour or so but when a winning break goes up the road a large part of the field just call it a day.”
How’s the rest of 2016 looking and what’s the plan for 2017?
“2016 is starting to come to an end but I will keep going until October in an attempt to shorten the winter miles.
“I am not too sure about 2017, ideally I would like to professional contract.
“Nothing is finalised at the moment but I am hoping to get a Continental team for 2017.”
We wish him well – remember where you heard the name first…