Our ‘Love Your Work’ profile series sets out to discover and showcase individuals, organisations and initiatives, all of whom share our commitment to quality.
This month, we sat down with professional track and road cyclist Andy Tennant at our White Collar Factory Coffeebar. A self-confessed coffee lover and longtime friend of Workshop Coffee, Andy’s relationship to ‘quality’ lies not in a product, but in his single-minded dedication to his sport.
How did you get into cycling?
So I guess it all began when I was fourteen years old and a bit of a fat kid. I used to swim relatively competitively but loved the vending machines too much. I eventually quit swimming and a few of my mates were getting into cycling so I thought I’d give that a go. One of them really got into trial biking and doing tricks, but I enjoyed the riding side of it more. In all honesty, I was pretty rubbish as a kid and probably didn’t get good until I was seventeen, when I started to progress and win a few races. Before that I used to do these handicap races where I was given a 6-lap headstart and would still finish 6-laps behind the winner! When I was eighteen, I left school, decided not to go to university and was put straight onto the Great Britian Academy Development Team for 3 years.
What’s your role within your current cycling team, Canyon Eisburg?
I’ve been a professional cyclist for twelve years now so I’m definitely the senior statesman within the team. This means I’ll take on more responsibility and try to act like a bit of a leader for the younger guys, rather than just sitting in the background. My mouth sometimes gets me in trouble, but I like to give my opinion and I’ve been doing this a long time so I’m usually right more times than I’m wrong. I certainly don’t sit around and bark orders at people - at the end of the day, I still want to win bike races so I guess I’m just trying to lead by example.
How do you find the motivation to train when the weather is terrible or you’re feeling exhausted?
I wouldn’t use the word motivation, I’d use the word commitment. Motivation is an emotion so I’d try and steer away from that because you can’t control it - some days you’ll be motivated, some days you won’t. What you can control is commitment. You’ve just got to commit to training whilst keeping an eye on the bigger picture. There are always times when you don’t want to train, but rest is just as important and often the hardest part. Today, for example, I’ve ridden my bike this morning and then popped into town, but I’d probably have been better resting - sitting on my backside watching Netflix all day.
There’s a fine line between living like a monk and being mentally stable and happy. When I was in Italy (where the GB Team has a cycling training base), it was just so mentally unstimulating and I was actually performing worse on the bike because I was miserable. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking at doing a degree soon. It's a chance to switch off from cycling after my training and concentrate on something completely different.
And what about the races themselves? How do you prepare mentally for those?
It depends on who I’m racing for. If it’s a road race for Canyon Eisburg, then I can normally switch on ten minutes before the race and I’m ready to go. When I'm racing for GB on the track, on the other hand, I'm looking at numbers and graphs for days beforehand, discussing turns and strategies, and start to get nervous from about four hours before the race. It’s a four-minute race, where the tiniest error can cost you massively, so there’s a lot more tension.
But I’ve stuck with the track because I’ve enjoyed the success and it’s the success that makes it all worthwhile. When the opposite happens and you don’t succeed, obviously that’s hard, but you try and logically justify it to yourself and work out why it didn’t happen. If you’re continually unsuccessful, that’s when you’re motivation starts to plummet and your commitment levels start to decrease.
Despite being more successful on the track, I enjoy racing on the road more and that's probably because there’s less pressure on me. When you’re riding on the track for GB and it’s the Olympics or the World Championships, they’re such big competitions and there’s a lot of pressure on you to perform. On the road, I don’t get that and there’s more of a family atmosphere amongst the team.
What does your off-season like?
I’ll probably have two or three weeks off, but because I ride on the track as well there isn’t really much of an off-season for me. My road team are looking at doing some racing in China over the winter, which should be fun and then I’ll probably do some of the six-day events [a six-day track cycling event that takes place in cities around the world]. I rode the London six-day last year and spent every day at Workshop, which was great.
Like any sporting careers, the years that can be spent as a professional cyclist are finite. How many seasons do you think you have left?
Probably one or two. It depends on a number of things, but I don’t want to be in the position where I get to the end of my cycling career and I’ve got nothing to move on to. It sounds bad, but I almost want a 9-5 job so that I can have my weekends and do what I want for a while. I’m sure I’ll miss bits of cycling as a career, but I don’t want to leave it that one year too late and find myself miserable the entire time. I’d rather leave the sport on a happy note and keep riding my bike in my own time for the enjoyment and the love of it.
Photo: Grant Worrall
Do you know what you’ll do when you retire from cycling?
I’ve got one idea of doing up a Land Rover Defender, putting a coffee machine in the back of it and going to events. It’s a bit of a pipedream.
I’m also in the process of starting a Sports & Business Management degree soon and planning to do some work experience with a couple of firms, both within sport and in completely different sectors, just trying to better understand what I do and don't enjoy outside of sport.
I feel like I’m eighteen again, which is why I thought it’d be best to get a degree and some experience. There are certain mental attitudes which athletes are quite good at - being proactive, dedicated and a close attention to detail. My attitude is, and always has been, that if I’m not going to do it right, then there’s no point doing it at all. It’s all or nothing and that's certainly how I've approached my cycling career. You miss out on a lot in life and there’s no point in doing that unless you're giving less than 100%.
You make no secret of the fact you're an enormous coffee fan. Do you take it with you when you're travelling for races?
I do, yes, especially when I’m away for longer period times. I’ve started using a Cleverdripper on the road over an AeroPress because it’s less messy, and then I’ll take filter coffee, some scales, a hand grinder and sometimes a kettle - my teammates say my hotel rooms usually look like a scene from Breaking Bad.
When I’m just away for a couple days, I think to myself "is it really worth taking all that stuff?", but every time I don’t take it, I regret it. Hotel coffee is generally so poor I’d rather not drink it. My teammates don't mind going fifteen minutes out of their way to pick me up or drop me off at my house either, because they’re always greeted or sent home with a coffee!
Andy showing off with some impressive latte art at home
And what about at home? How are you brewing?
I’ve got a Slayer espresso machine and an EK43 grinder. I'm just finishing the last of Kirehe Remera Espresso before moving on to Murray Cooper - I get through a lot of coffee at home because there aren’t many great cafes nearby and a lot of my friends and family end up coming over for a brew too.
Does it feature as part of your daily routine?
Definitely. I’ll have at least two coffees before I head out on the bike - usually a flat white first thing with my wife Lauren (because I have to make her one anyway), and a filter coffee as well. I’ve actually got a filtered water tap at home and I like making filter at home so that when I’m on the road, and I’ve got to use bottled water, I know what the coffee I'm making is meant to taste like. I go to Mallorca a lot for training and the water there is so chlorinated that you really have got to use bottled water for brewing.
There's no doubt you love great coffee, but what was it that got you into it in the first palce?
Probably cycling and the GB Academy. We lived in Tuscany, Italy, for three years, at the team base, so I got used to Italians-style coffee. After that, I got my first espresso machine for my twenty-first birthday and it's all escalated from there. I rode for Rapha Condor Sharp for a few years and some of my teammates there were really into their coffee.
Photo: Gareth Winter
Have you got a favourite coffee stop on your local rides?
I usually base a longer route around my coffee stops. In Shrewsbury, where I live, there are two good ones: The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse and Ginger and Co, then there’s a nice one in Worcester called Wayland’s Yard and another in Ironbridge called EightySix’d. When I’m in Manchester I go to Pot Kettle Black and Ancoats quite a lot.
Photo: Hugh McManus
Finally, we can't let you leave without answering one more question: where are your favourite place to ride?
I think Shropshire, where I live, is fantastic for bike riding. The roads are really quiet and you can get into Wales pretty quickly. There’s loads of little lanes and plenty of nice coffee stops. I don’t know what they’re on about with Yorkshire, Shropshire is the real God’s Country if you ask me!
In terms of abroad, I’ve really enjoyed racing in China and America. China because it’s all just so whacky -- it’s amazingly mental. And then America and Australia are cool too, less so for training, but they’ve got good coffee shops and good weather. Without wanting to sound like a BNP party member, I think Britain is probably my favourite place to ride!