Thursday, August 5, 2021
HomeInterviewsConor Henry - no one expected the 21 year-old from Belfast to...

Conor Henry – no one expected the 21 year-old from Belfast to win the 1992 Milk Race


The 12 day, 13 stage British ‘Milk Race’ of 1992 was a pro-am affair with Belgian hard men Collstrop – who won four stages including the opening TTT; talented home pros from Banana-Met; the Danish National squad; the Belgian National team; a squad form CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States – formerly the Soviet Union and the Netherlands National team to name but seven.

And a team from Ireland; but no one expected 21 year-old Conor Henry from Belfast to defy some of the best riders in Europe to take final victory.

Here’s his story:

What were your expectations going into the Milk Race, Conor?

“I believe I went in thinking I will just see how the form is and go from there.

“Often in stage races it’s so hard to know until after a few days and then I could gauge where I was relative to the competition.

“I did think it would be hard to win because it was so flat.

“Thus for the 1992 race I was just hoping to win a stage at max when I entered that race.”

Conor Henry
Conor digs deep. Photo©Ronny de Schepper

The race started a tad inauspiciously for you…

“Yes! I fell off the starting ramp in the Stage 1a TTT…

“I can remember the guy held me crookedly.

“I shouted and then bounced the bike straight but then he moved it again just before the start and I was already falling before he even let go.

“I suppose he thought he was helping.”

When did you begin to think you could win the Milk Race overall?

“The day I took the jersey. I was aware before that day that all the people with form i.e. the top 15 or so had all made at least one big break to get up the top 10 as far as possible.

“Once this had happened everyone else marked them so they could no longer really progress further up the GC, except with maybe time bonuses.

“Also I realised that when the break got a certain gap each day the bunch would time their capture.

“I had this idea that what if the break could get up the road without wasting much energy and then wait for the chase to start.

“At that time if the breakaway riders started to ride hard you could possibly catch the bunch out. Thus my plan was to roll the break through to get a big gap then wait for the chase and ride as hard as possible to jump as far up the top 10 as I could.

“On the day I executed my attack, fortunately my team mate Ian Chivers also made it into the break. I told him to drive the break and I rode through easy. I knew I was on good form and even riding easy, but it appeared that I was doing my fair share.

“Every time the pace dropped Ian went through again, driving it. I can even remember going up the climbs easy trying to keep the group together.

“We got to about four minutes ahead when I was informed that the bunch was starting to chase. Immediately I started riding as fast as I could and somehow the plan seemed to work and the bunch miscalculated.”

The British pros ‘ganged up’ to try to usurp you, didn’t they?

“The British pros did try to team up on me but that was to be expected and they were always fair so I had nothing but respect for them.”

Whilst Henry is modest about defending his lead to the end, it was a huge battle to the very last metres of the race with Belgian podium finisher Peter Verbeken of Collstrop off the front and the Irish team desperately fighting to hold the line. After the finish, Henry said;

I was totally blitzed; thank God the nightmare is over. I was so smashed because I had to do so much chasing. I was seeing stars on that last lap. I didn’t know what was going on, people were shouting two minutes at me and I didn’t know what it meant.

“I only knew I was behind when one of the Banana riders told me. It was a savage stage, and crazy finish for this kind of race. The Bananas went early but my team kept the bunch going and they came back.”

On the strength of the Milk Race win you got a stagiaire place with TVM.

“I managed to get a trial with TVM through Frank Quinn. He also managed the other Irish pros.”

You had a good result in the Tour de L’Avenir for them?

“I rode the L’Avenir but only managed second on one stage.

“I was shattered after a long season and really would not have raced at all if it wasn’t my trial for the team.”

Conor Henry
Conor in yellow and looking strong. Photo©John Rooney/Twitter

But they said that when you rode some late season races for them Italy you didn’t get the results they wanted.

“Italy was the same.

“When you are exhausted at the end of the season that that is it your season is over whether you like it or not.

“I was also supposed to go to New Zealand with the Ireland team which I really wanted to do but I was just done.”

I’ve heard it said that not getting contract was more about politics than ability?

“As for the politics of not signing for TVM who knows – I surely don’t.

“The thing is they gave me trial and I was too tired to ride well so what can you say?”

How was your Olympic experience?

“Barcelona – I remember that even then I was tired from the season.

“I should have done much better but that is the way it goes and I was never a one day specialist.”

You had successful season in France as an amateur, didn’t you?

“I went there in 1989 and lived in Paris for four years, and they were the best years of my life.

“I remember when I went thinking that if I never do anything else for myself I will have taken a few years just for me and done exactly as I wanted.”

You were on the podium several times in your Nationals but never managed to win…

“In the Nationals, mostly they were almost impossible for me to win.

“Some years you have a few favourites but for at least two or three years I was clearly the sole favourite.

“I think one year I won about 15 or 20 races on the trot before the national so I was clearly the favourite.

“Everyone knew it and I was ridiculously marked.

“But that was to be expected.

“So even though I would have dearly wanted to win just once it was not to be and I don’t blame the other riders for doing the obvious.”

Conor Henry

You spent time in California?

“No racing in California, it was just work.”

You came back after ‘retiring’ to ride the Commonwealth Games in 1998?

“The comeback was difficult because I hardly done any cycling for a few years.

“However I thought it would be good challenge to see if I could go from no training to the Games in one year.

“It was great though because everyone told me the racing was so much quicker and I found out that it wasn’t!”

And then you moved to England?

“I went to England because I was at a loose end. I did not know what to do with my life so I decided to do a degree while I was thinking.

“Fortunately I had attained my A levels many years ago so I got into Law in London.

“After the degree I still had no idea what to do but I met a girl from Kent and I’ve stayed.”


“Looking back – and I am not joking when I say this – I would have taken drugs especially when on trial.

“There were days when I was climbing faster than everyone; even some of the best riders in the world, pro and amateur.

“However my form would come and go with tiredness – as is human when you are clean.

“Incidentally I always thought and still do that the English pros in the Milk Race were clean.

“I never wanted to taint my passion with drugs but since retiring I realised that most were on drugs and I really wish I had taken some just to know how good I really was. Maybe I still would not have been good enough but at least I would know.

“Also, I possibly would have made enough money so that I wouldn’t have had do a job that I would rather not.”

Read more about Conor’s story at thebikecomesfirst.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Conor Dunne – A Switch to JLT Condor and a Win in the Melton CiCLE Classic

We first came across Conor Dunne in his AN Post days, dueling with those hardy Topsport boys in a big kermis at Westrozebeke in Flanders. The next thing we knew his 6' 8" frame was on the tele from the 2015 Richmond Virginia Worlds, initiating the break of the day for his team Ireland jersey and spending 200 K 'up the road.' VeloVeritas recently caught up with Conor after his fine win...

Shay O’Hanlon – Irish Rás Multi-Record Holder

Ireland’s ‘Rás,’ a cult bike race; Marcin Bialoblocki, Tony Martin, Stephen Roche and Scotland’s own Jamie McGahan number among the GC winners. So who’s...

John Mangan – Part One, Starting Out in France; “the Mafia didn’t have much choice but to let me in”

John Mangan won 156 continental races not to mention a raft of races in his native Ireland before he headed for France and huge success. Such was his strength both on and of the bike that for a decade he was head of the ‘Brittany Mafia’, the group of riders which controlled racing in the West France racing Heartland. He would tell me; ‘I think that in all the years I was there we only let two wins slip away from us.’

Eddie Dunbar joins Team Sky

Team Sky are delighted to announce the immediate signing of Eddie Dunbar. Dunbar, who is set to make his Team Sky debut on Saturday at Coppa Agostoni, has agreed a deal to the end of the 2019 season. The Irishman, 22, was contracted to Aqua Blue Sport for the 2018 season, but – following the closure of the team – Aqua Blue and the UCI have granted Dunbar permission to leave his contract early and sign for Team Sky.

John Mangan – Part Two; “The speakers used to call me ’The Irish Compressor’ or ‘The Irish Locomotive’

We pick up our chat with John Mangan after discussing his 'adventure' at the Munich Olympics which involved hiding in the woods, the riders he respected most, how most of his 156 wins came through pure power, and of course, why the 'Rider Mafia' simply had to let him in.

Ryan Mullen – Silver Medallist in the World U23 Time Trial Championship

Ryan Mullen’s (Ireland & AN Post) progress through the sport has been little short of meteoric. Mullen won a superb silver medal in the Worlds U23 TT in last year's Championships in Ponferrada with only a heartbreaking 0.48 seconds behind Aussie winner, Campbell Flakemore – who’s now with BMC. We caught up with the Irish flyer early in the New Year as he returned from stocking up at the supermarket in Mallorca where he’s training with the Irish track squad.

At Random

David Walsh – Part 1, “We know what you did Lance. I want to know why”

Chief sports writer for The Sunday Times, Irishman David Walsh is best known in cycling circles for being one of the people who have doggedly sought out the reality of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories, not believing the "fairy tale" that defined the American's recovery from cancer and record series of wins in the world's toughest race. The award-winning journalist is the author and co-author of a number of books on the shamed American rider's career and his subsequent fall from grace, the most recent being "Seven Deadly Sins" which Walsh describes as 'more light-hearted' than the others!

Alex Rasmussen – Calling Time on Professional Cycling

He's been one of the outstanding track riders of the last decade, world champion four times across three disciplines‎ - scratch (twice), madison with Michael Mørkøv and team pursuit. ‎There's been a raft of national, European and World Cup titles and podiums not to mention an Olympic team pursuit silver‎. On the Six Day scene he's won in Berlin, Bremen, Copenhagen, Ghent and Grenoble. ‎And that's before we mention his road palmarés - two stages in the Dunkirk Four Day, the GP Herning, Philadelphia... But Alex Rasmussen has called 'time' on all of that and will race this season on a low key domestic programme.

CTT Team Time Trial Championships 2021

Defending champions and race favourites, Ribble Weldtite with strong men Dan Bigham, James Shaw and Simon Wilson took the CTT Team Time Trial Championships title on a cool, damp but still morning at Irvine on the west coast of Scotland, with a time of 54:01, averaging 55.9 kph to best their own ‘B’ team by 2:32, the line up there being Zeb Kyffin, Joe Wilson and Matt Gibson.

Steve Douce – Seven Times British Cyclo-Cross Champion

Over the last couple of winters we’ve tracked down and spoken to some of the ‘greats’ of British cyclo-cross, John Atkins, Keith Mernickle, Chris Wreghitt and Barry Davies to name four. But our Spanish mentor, Al Hamilton pointed out to us that we hadn't spoken to the man who won the title seven times in the 80’s and 90’s – Steve Douce.

Ryan Perry – the New British 25 Mile TT Champion 2015

The British ‘25’ is still THE race to win - Sheil, Bonner, Engers, Lloyd, Doyle, Webster, Boardman ... Any rider would be honoured to add their name to that list. This year we’d all been expecting Matt Bottrill to add to his already impressive palmarès. But it was one of VeloVeritas' amigo, Dan Fleeman’s charges at Dig Deep Coaching who upset the form book: Ryan Perry (Langdale Lightweights RT) who’s 48:04 was 20 seconds too quick for Britain’s fastest postie.

Le Tour de France 2007 – Day 7: Stage 17, Pau – Castelsarrasin

Pau, Thursday morning, the sun is out, so that's a good start. How do we feel? A tad flat, it has to be said, but the show must go on. Over to our left, the publicity caravan is rolling-out, headed for Castelsarrasin. It's a day for the "baroudeurs" today - the breakaway specialists. There are five fourth and one third category climbs today, so it's a hard day's work - maybe a French win? That would be nice, this Tour could do with a 'lift'. The Pez guy is out of the office today, checking-out the 2008 Look frames and bikes launch in San Jose - a dirty job, but...