Interview with Peter Kennaugh - Team Sky

Interview with Peter Kennaugh - Team Sky

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Dreams do Come True: Peter Kennaugh

January 9, 2010; by Larry Hickmott

Related Features: Russell Downing | Team Launch | Ben Swift |

Peter's last big race, the Road Worlds for Under 23's where he was fourth.

One of the most promising young talents to emerge from Britain in years, Peter Kennaugh, will take his first steps as a professional with Team Sky this year. He comes from a hotbed of cycling on the Isle of Man, where fellow pros Mark Cavendish and Jonny Bellis have been training partners.

Peter was a rider who stood out on the Great Britain academy and his ride in the 2009 Under 23 World Road Race Championships was certainly one of pure class. He was fourth but on a course that has been described as the toughest for many a year, he showed that he had it what it takes to ride with the very best.

Now, he has moved into the professional ranks where he admits at first it was surreal being with such a strong group of world class professionals with so many highly placed in the UCI rankings.

“Sure, it felt different to be with all these pros when we had our get together at the end of November in Manchester – a lot different – because a lot of them are considerably older than I am. I have looked up to many of the guys and had posters of them on my wall. Now I’m teammates with them. Riders like Flecha, big classics guys and I loved the classics when I was growing up”.

“Now we’re all back here at the launch and all in the same kit and leisure wear, straight away you feel part of the team and I feel normal and like I belong”.

Norway's Kurt Arvesen welcomes the youngster into the Team Sky fold at the pre launch ride.

“It is totally different to the GB Under 23 Academy which is a strange place because you spend so much time living with your teammates 24/7. This is like coming to work where as at the academy it felt like you were at home with your brother, arguing as well as having great times with them.”

Prior to the launch in London, and then a training camp in Spain, Peter spent his Christmas and New Year at home with his family on the Isle of Man before hoping on a plane to come to London to go to work, work he says he loves doing.

Asked about his programme for 2010, he says the biggest race that stands out is the Vuelta (Tour of Spain) at the end of the season. “My first Grand Tour and it was quite something seeing that on my programme in black and white. I have like an Excel spreadsheet and it takes up over a month in the year which is something else.”

It is a race programme he says that is perfect and one that came about in a ‘toing and froing’ of dialogue between him and the team. “If I hadn’t been happy with things, they were happy to listen but I was more than happy with it” Peter explains.

“I would listen to the directors talk about what they felt was best for me and I agreed with what they were saying. As a first year pro, it provides me with so many different types of racing -- flat windy races, hillier races, lots of stage races and a few one day races.”

“In terms of gaining experience and progression, I think it’s perfect and it’s not too much racing either. I have clear breaks like one in March where I have three weeks with out racing, which gives me time to recover from the first two months of training and racing. This break will give me the chance to recover and then train properly for the next block of racing. I also have July off as well during the Tour de France where I can press the refresh button and then prepare to go into the period with the Vuelta (Tour of Spain).

During the year, Peter, a first year rookie, will be racing in well known races like Etoile de Bessèges, Tour du Haut, Tour of Catalunya, Tour of Romandy, and the Tour of Poland. There is though one race he has his eyes on, the British Road Race Championship in Lancashire.

This is the memory that Peter will be aiming to erase in 2010, losing the British title in the sprint to Kristian House. After two medals in two years, Gold beckons for the Isle of Man rider.

Part of the ‘Pendle Cycle Fest 2010’ (website),  the championship is said to be on a  challenging closed road course based around the picturesque village of Barley. The seven mile circuit will be tackled 15 times by the men and whilst it may be beautiful, it is also tough with almost no flat sections.

After seeing the way Peter rode in Wales on a tough course around Abergavenny in 2008 and then again in 2009, it sounds like a course to suit the young climber and it’s because of that, he’d like to target it.  “Having been on the podium for the last two years, I’d like to make that top step. The nationals though is such a weird race and so easy for things to go wrong. But it is the nationals and something I want to have good form for and target.”

“It would have been amazing to have had the champions jersey on for the ride this morning” he added referring to the team ride around St James Park where other members of Team Sky donned their champion’s jerseys.

Preparation
With the start of the road season getting ever earlier – his first race is on January 31 in Europe – Peter has been busy in Italy getting fit of late. After the Road Worlds last year,  Peter spent two months on the Isle of Man where he explained that although he was always riding his bike, he also had loads of ‘holidays’.

“I didn’t ride my bike properly for a month and a half” he says “and then I got ill and then ill again which meant I had almost two months away from proper training. I thought, right, I had better get healthy and some consistent training in and for that I went to Italy. I had to find place to live so it all fitted together and that was where I trained until I came home for Christmas.”

“I have been building up slowly for the last month and feel like I’m ready to do some decent training in the training camp”. Talking from Spain after the team's first training ride in Spain, Peter said "it was awesome. Over Christmas I was inside on the rollers a lot of the time because of the ice but with the weather out here you can train for hours. It was a pleasure to be on the bike on the road.”

In the spotlight at the launch, Peter Kennaugh expects to play mainly a team role in 2010.

A new challenge
As some one so young, 20, turning professional for Team Sky will present new challenges which the Isle of Man rider cherishes. “Being part of Team Sky and now a professional, I am so self motivated” he told me.

“I don’t need to go out with anyone else to get motivated in training.  I can do that all on my own now. I know what races I am doing, what the level is going to be like, and so I’m super motivated and super committed. For example I only had a drink or two over Christmas and that was New Years Eve where as before, I’d probably drink more and ride less.”

“I feel like I am starting at the bottom again and feel like I have got a point to prove.”

That pressure though Peter says, comes from within. “If you ask the directors or Rod (Ellingworth), they’ll say to me I have nothing to prove but me personally, I feel like I want to prove myself all over again and I seem to get the best out of myself when I’m like that. On the Academy I was getting complacent at times I think”.

So, was this year the right time to turn pro I asked? “I think so, yes. It was getting a bit ‘samey’ on the Academy but I don’t think a third year as an amateur would have done me any harm. It was though an opportunity you can’t turn down. I’m ready to turn pro for sure but at the same time, if the team had felt I had to do a third year as an amateur then I would have done that too.”

Asked whether it’s scary realising a dream that so many young cyclists in Britain and around the world have as teenagers, that of turning professional and riding in Europe, Peter replied “after the road worlds, I had plenty of time to think and I realised what was happening.”

“I was turning professional which I have wanted to do since I was so young and yes, my head was all over the place as I thought ‘god this is what I have always wanted and now its happened’. It was a surreal time in my life.”

“But then after the November get together, and some time in Italy on the bike and getting a place to live, I was starting to feel more mature and settled in looking after myself.”

The Track
As a former World Junior champion on the track and European champion as well, where are Peter’s ambitions on the track now?  “That is something I have to think about seriously and talk to the team about after this season” he replied. “My path to success is the road and I think perhaps I need to concentrate on getting in the road team for the 2012 Olympics and forgetting about the track.”

“That’s the thinking at the moment but nothing is set in stone. Unfortunately, they (the IOC/UCI) have taken the event out of the Olympics I love -- the Madison -- and while I think I’m capable of doing the Team Pursuit, I don’t know whether I enjoy it enough to be fully committed to it.”

“As for the Omnium, I don’t think I’m fast enough because there are so many sprint events.”

“My thinking at the moment is that if I went for the track at the 2010 Olympics, I’d lose two years of road development and while I’d still be doing the road, I don’t think I’d progress as much as I want to. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the track and want to do the Revolutions and maybe six day events but as for the Olympics, we’ll have to see how things go.”

Two Academy riders in Sky colours, Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh.

Tour de France
In the past, since Dave Braislford talked about a British Tour winner within five years, a few names have cropped up and one of those is Peter Kennaugh. Third in the ‘Baby Giro’ (amateur Tour of Italy) showed he can climb and endure the rigours of a stage race but on the subject of ‘le Tour’, Peter himself feels it’s too early to say.

In an interview with Brendan Gallagher of the Telegraph, Peter explained "I think becoming a GC rider is the way I am heading because I enjoy it so much in the mountains and feel pretty comfortable on the big climbs.”

"But I'm keeping my options open to a certain extent and the Sky management have come up with a varied programme this year to stretch me in different directions to see exactly what I am made of.”

On the subject of the Tour de France, with me however, Peter was even more guarded. “That’s a tough question” He replied

“I don’t know because I think the Tour is such a big event it’s impossible to say whether I’m capable of getting a big result in it. I think short term, I’d like to ride the Ardenne classics where I think I can do a good job for teammates whilst  learning about the racing. Then, maybe in a few years time, targeting those type of races.”

“Speaking to Rod (Ellingworth), I want to spend this year riding well enough to gain selection for the big classics next year. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can work for the other riders and playing a team role. I love riding for people and get something from that.”

“Hopefully I can help Swifty like I did when we were both on the Academy. That would be awesome. Back then, I spent a whole year racing with Swifty, looking after him on the climbs, trying to position him in the sprints and we know each other from that. It would be amazing if I could do that as a professional.”

Peter however is too good a rider to only work for others. He showed a few times in 2009 just how talented he is and that talent will for sure bring him a result or two of his own in 2010. Good luck Pete!

Peter Kennaugh Biography on Team Sky Website

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Team Sky Launch -- Report & Photos

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