Interview: Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)

Paul Burgoine looks ahead to the Tour Down Under which starts tomorrow and talks to a rider in the race, Andy Fenn who after a Bronze in the Under 23 Worlds finds himself riding for WorldTour team, Omega Pharma Quickstep

Paul writes … The Tour Down Under, South Australia, is where the 2012 road racing season gets underway and fans finally get a glimpse of all the new teams – their kit and their bikes. The only trouble is, the coverage is a bit sketchy, with only half an hour’s highlights on Sky and audio coverage via – but the possibility of a live broadcast of the final two stages.

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) gets his start in Australia 2012 off to a winning start. Photo: Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo

The Tour Down Under also sees the first outing of the Australian based Green Edge team led by the talented Cameron Meyer and veteran sprinter Robbie Mc Ewen and a lot will be expected of them in their home tour and their first outing in a WorldTour race. The first WorldTour race will also see the comeback of Spain’s Alejandro Valverde after his ban for doping where Valverde will head the Spanish Movistar team. A lot of teams are led by their sprinters, including Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) who won the Tour Down Under’s ‘prologue’ on the weekend and top Italian Alessandro Pettacchi (Lampre-ISD).  Sky also have a strong squad including Edvald Boasson Hagen, Alex Dowsett and Geraint Thomas.

The team I like the look of though is Omega-Pharma Quickstep led by German sprinter Gerald Ciolek. Making their debut for the Belgium outfit are Liverpool’s Matt Brammeier and Hertfordshire’s Andy Fenn. For the latter, Andy is making a big step up in his cycling career having raced last year for An Post, a UCI registered Continental team as well as guesting for the GB Academy.

I managed to have a short question and answer session with Andy Fenn whilst he was in Australia preparing for the tour.

Photo: Omega Pharma/Quickstep

Paul: Not underestimating the An-Post Sean Kelly Team, but the move to Omega- Pharma Quickstep is a major stepping stone in your career. What are you looking forward to most about joining them?
Andy Fenn: It was the team I was hoping to sign for and that was before HTC folded, which has meant even more top level riders and staff have joined. Which can only help me learn more in my first year.  The plans for the team in the future are really good and with them trying to make steps forward themselves as a major force, it’s something great to be part of. But also, as it is still mainly a Belgium team, with the Classics still being a major focus, that’s a good fit with me as these are the races I want to be competitive in in the future. So working and racing with people who have won them in the past is something I am looking forward to.

Paul: A lot is expected of Team Sky this season, but Omega-Pharma Quickstep have a team to match them on paper, is that reflected in the mood of the squad?
Andy Fenn: As it’s only my first year as a professional, I can’t really say what it was like before, but it feels like a new team to me with so many new riders, staff, different equipment etc. Also with a wider range of riders that should be competitive in a lot more races now. I think it has made the moral of the team really good, and given everybody more motivation.

Paul: The first major race is the Tour Down Under – what will your role be within the team?
Andy Fenn: Just a support role for the team. Helping out in the lead outs  and doing my job for the team.

Paul: You will be missing the training camp in Benicassim but have there been others? And what format did they follow?
Andy Fenn: We had a team building camp, which was all off the bike activities. It was more just to get to know everybody in a less stressed situation, with so many new people joining the team. Then we had a training camp in Calpe for 10 days before Christmas. We were doing 4-5 hours most days in three different training groups, but also doing core sessions in the morning before breakfast. A bit of lunch, then a massage before dinner. There was also fitting in photo shoots, bike fits, meetings with Directors, talks about new equipment and nutrition etc.

Paul: Will you be living in Belgium for the best part of the year?
Andy Fenn: Yes I will be based in Neiuwrode, pretty close to where I used to live in Aarschot last year. There is a good group of us around there so am happy to be coming back this year.

Last year, Andy (right) rode with Mark McNally in the An Post team and on Dolan bikes.

Paul: What will your schedule be for the season?
Andy Fenn: The races will be put up online at the team website

Paul: What are your personal targets for 2012?
Andy Fenn: Just to fit in and find my place in the team as quick as possible. Then just to do what is asked of me, and hopefully then I will be given an opportunity to go for a result myself.

Paul: Paris Roubaix must be high on your check-list this year. If you’re not in the Elite squad, will you be in the under 23 race?
Andy Fenn: Yes I would love to ride Roubaix this year, but in a team like this, the competition for a place is obviously very high. But I have been told they will pick the team purely on which rider’s are going the best at the time, so anything is possible.  Also I’m no longer able to rider the Under 23 version.

Paul: With Ijo Keisse in the team, could you see you self riding a Six Day race with him as your partner?
Andy Fenn: I have ridden a few UIV 6 day events and they are always great fun. However, my focus is currently on the road, so I don’t see myself doing any at the moment. But if the opportunity came, I would consider it for sure.

Paul: Who has been an inspiration to you in your career thus far?
Andy Fenn: Nobody in particular, but I can remember watching  Mario Cipollini winning stages of the Tour de France when I was younger, that was the first time I ever became interested in cycling. My first club the Welwyn Wheelers is where I started riding the track, which then led me to the road racing scene. My parents have always been very supportive and I couldn’t have got to this point in my career without there support.

Paul: What has been your favourite victory and your most surprising to-date?
Andy Fenn: My favourite victory has to be when I won the Junior Paris Roubaix. Just to have a small taste of what it would be like to win the proper Paris Roubaix, riding some of the sections and finishing in the velodrome just hours before the pros came in, was great. It would also have to be my most surprising as well, as I didn’t catch the leader until the final kilometre so it was a shock when I actually crossed the line first.

Paul: What would be your dream race to win – and for what reason?
Andy Fenn: Probably Paris Roubaix. It’s just so different to any other race. Also, as it’s usually won by a lone effort, or a small escape group, after everybody gradually gets dropped on each section of pave one by one. It’s like being the final survivor entering the velodrome, which would be amazing to experience.

Paul: Early in your career, did you ever imagine riding with the likes of Tom Boonen and Levi Leipheimer?
Andy Fenn: I have always wanted to be riding in a team like this, so yes in a way. But it is also strange to have watched them for so many years, and now to be riding with them.

Paul: How did the deal come about for your transfer to Omega-Pharma Quickstep, was there a defining reason for them to sign you?
Andy Fenn: I had been talking to them for most of the year. I had some tests done by them and they always seemed interested. But last year it was really difficult for riders finding a team, so it was a case of waiting. But eventually they gave me the ok which I am really grateful for.

The Bronze in the Under 23 Worlds showed that Andy Fenn has the makings of a top professional cyclist.

Paul: How is your Flemish? I think Matt Brammeier has been brushing up on his?
Andy Fenn: I know a few words, but nowhere near good enough to have a conversation. Everybody speaks such good English over here so it is difficult to learn, but I think I should try at least.

Paul: Frites & Mayonnaise or Fish & Chips?
Andy Fenn: Only frites and Mayonnaise in Belgium, the mayonnaise isn’t the same anywhere else.

Paul: What path would your career had followed if you had not been a Pro-Cyclist?
Andy Fenn: I always wanted to be one, so if I hadn’t turned pro this year I would still be trying for a few more years for sure.

I would like to thank Andy and wish him the best of luck this season.

Interviews from VeloUK

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