It’s not unfair to call Andy Fenn’s career to date a disappointment. He acknowledges as much himself and, as he looks ahead to his second season with Team Sky, he is aware of the passing of time and the need to take a step forward.
Things started brightly for the British rider as he finished the 2011 season with a bronze medal at the under 23 World Championships and a professional contract with OmegaPharma-QuickStep in the bag. He made a strong start to 2012 too, with a brace of victories at Challenge Mallorca, and there was every indication that a star was rising. However, his career has since faltered, and in his three seasons at QuickStep he was unable to make any real impact or discernible progression.
“My career got off to a good start but it didn’t really go how I was hoping or expecting,” Fenn tells Cyclingnews at Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca.
Being part of the world’s top Classics set-up may have seemed like a blessing but it turned out to be something of a curse as Fenn struggled for opportunities and first experiences of races that would have aided his development.
“For the Classics, getting experience of the races is massive, maybe more so than a Grand Tour – just knowing the roads is such a big thing,” says Fenn, who likens the difficulty of getting a big Classics start with QuickStep to getting a Tour de France ride with Team Sky.
“After finishing a race you’re like ‘ah next time’. Once you get your foot in there you can start to get the ball rolling a bit.”
That's the process Fenn hopes is underway at Team Sky. His one-day results last year were hardly eye-catching, but he did rack up a greater number of appearances, especially in the more important races, including a debut at Paris-Roubaix. This year, he's in no doubt - he has to get that ball accelerating.
“I am sort of needing to make a bit of a mark at Team Sky now," he says. "It’s my fifth year, a third of the way through [my career] already, so I really have got to start performing.”
Fenn is optimistic in that regard, and feels far more settled at Team Sky than he ever did at the Belgian-oriented QuickStep set-up.
“I feel like I’ve found my feet a bit here," he says. "I’ve made good progress, and that’s happened again through the winter, I’m in pretty good shape now, and looking forward getting the season underway."
“It was nice coming to somewhere where I knew a lot of people, there’s quite a few British riders, and being in that environment, rather than being the foreign rider. Just the way run the team, working especially with Rod [Ellingworth] really got me back on track training and routine-wise, and I've really started to chip away and make progress again.”
The next step
So what does Fenn hope for in the year to come?
“The Classics are still my main focus again and hopefully this year I should be in a better position from the start,” he says. “We’ve got a good young team for those races. Luke Rowe stepped up last year and I’m hoping to do the same this year.”
Fenn will begin his Classics campaign on the opening weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and hopes to earn a debut ride at the Tour of Flanders followed by a return to Paris-Roubaix, to “make the next step there”.
The 25-year-old will be riding in support of Team Sky’s Classics leaders Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard in the spring, and he has made it his primary aim to play a key role right up until the final stages of the race.
“I’ve got to make that final part of the races as my next step. To be there in the finishes of those Classics, the more guys you have at the end of those races the better.
"Ok we’ve got two guys who should be there for sure, but if you can have three or four… You look at Quickstep, it was three against one [at the 2015 Het Nieuwsblad], Yogi [Stannard] got the better of them, but numbers do normally count so the more you can have the better.”
In addition to being an asset for his team leaders, Fenn is well aware that his presence in the sharp end of these races may bring about opportunities to grab results himself, given the changeable nature of one-day racing.
“In those sort of races you find yourself in the right group and anything can happen. That’s how I see it happening, if it does.”