Amid the celebrations of Mark Cavendish's Giro d'Italia success, it's easy to forget Andy Fenn is the second British sprinter on the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team. In his first year with the WorldTour team, Fenn kicked off his career with two wins in the 2012 Trofeo Mallorca, but since seems to have slipped off the radar. Now though, he hopes that a victory in last week's Gullegem Koerse will be the kickstart he feels his season needs.
It's not like he's not been getting results, last year he managed 17 top 10 finishes and he's come close a few times this year too. "It [this season] hasn't been poor," 22-year-old Fenn told Cyclingnews, "but it hasn't been good. I've been getting close in some races, a few races I probably should have won."
Margins have been tight on occasions, like in Turkey, where his final stage third place was a bike length from winning, "But sprinting is all about winning. Last year as well I had a few good second places, if those seconds were firsts it would have changed my season a lot."
The win finally came in one of Belgium's biggest kermesses, hardly a major race, even if it is close to team headquarters and a high priority. It was the company in which he was racing which showed that Fenn's season is on the up. In true kermesse style there were attacks from the start and Fenn managed to join an early 17-man break with teammate Guillaume Van Kiersbulck and notables like Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) and BMC's Greg Van Avermaet and Phillipe Gilbert, who is still searching for a first win in the rainbow jersey.
As if proving that he doesn't want to be seen as a pure sprinter, more a rouleur with a fast finish, Fenn attacked with about 8km to go, and stayed clear to take the win, "It's always hard to get the finish right on a race like that, but there's just a moment to go and I thought it's quite far out, but I'll try." It is this style he wants to develop, "I don't want to be purely the sprinting route, I think hopefully yesterday showed a bit that maybe I can do something in the Classics, but pushing for a place in this team is pretty difficult."
A product of the British Cycling system, Fenn left when the Under 23 programme left Italy, and returned to Manchester, "I wasn't too keen on being British based, plus I felt the programme, the type of races we were going to do, was going to change, and for me I needed something a bit different."
This attitude, doing things his way, doing what is right for him, led Fenn to the An Post team for 2011, during which time he followed up his win in the 2008 Junior Paris-Roubaix with a fifth place in the U23 version of the race, further proving those Classics credentials. He finished the season with a fine third place at the U23 World Championships in Denmark.
In typical, self-deprecating fashion, he says, "Everyone had a chance early on to have their own success, and I was like last resort in a way, gambling everything on a bunch finish and if a group went, well hopefully we had someone else in it. I do owe a lot to those guys for that race especially."
It was after this that he signed a two-year contract with Omega-Pharma Quickstep and took those first two wins in Mallorca, "It was a big thing. I rode Down Under before, I was the only type of sprinter there [in Mallorca]. I'd only really just started making a name as someone who could fast finish towards the end of the year before, so they said OK, the first day's for you, and it just happened to work out, and the second day as well, the whole team [working for me]. It was actually really surreal."
Seeing the key to future sprint success as technique and tactics, Fenn intends to continue learning from the more experienced riders on the team. On the near horizon is the British Road Championships, the chance to race with and learn from Cavendish, and he hopes to ride the Vuelta later this year.
In the long term there's the Commonwealth Games, where he'd like to represent Scotland again, ultimately though, he just wants to improve, "Everyone just wants to win as much as they can, become as good as they can be, try to keep moving up the ladder, so to speak. Minor races, classics races, I'd love to have a jersey in a Grand Tour or a national jersey or a Championship jersey."
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