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Like the women's team pursuit rider, Tennant was also an unused reserve at London 2012 and missed out on gold...

Former team pursuit world champion Andy Tennant has said that elite sport is a “shit place to be at times” in response to claims by former Team GB rider Wendy Houvenhagel that she was denied the chance of an Olympic gold medal at London 2012.

Houvenaghel, silver medallist behind fellow Team GB rider Rebecca Romero in the individual pursuit at Beijing in 2008, was an unused reserve rider in the track endurance squad at London 2012, where Great Britain’s women won team pursuit gold as the event made its Olympic debut.

> Wendy Houvenaghel claims she suffered “bullying” and “ageism” at British Cycling

She said that her omission was “definitely not about performance” and that she did not believe that “the fastest team on the day were permitted to race,” as well as suggesting that her age at the time – 37 – was a factor.

Tennant is uniquely qualified to comment on missing out on becoming an Olympic champion at a home Games, because he suffered exactly the same experience as a member of the men’s squad who was not used in qualifying or the later rounds.

But speaking to Telegraph Sport ahead of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships which start in Hong Kong on 12 April, and for which he has been selected, he acknowledged that tough decisions sometimes need to be made.

“At the end of the day I’ve signed up for elite sport which we all know is shit place to be at times,” said the 30-year-old.

“We’re here to perform and win medals. We’re not here to be everyone’s friend and have a cosy coffee morning.

Speaking about Houvenaghel’s experience in London, he said: “She could have probably have gone into that squad and they still would have qualified but that wasn’t necessarily the fastest team so why would you put your second fastest team on to the starting grid?

“I don’t see how you complain or moan against a selection panel when they’ve just brought a team in that’s broken the world record.”

Tennant spoke about the independent review of British Cycling, ordered by UK Sport 12 months ago in the wake of allegations of bullying and discrimination of riders on the country’s World Class Performance Programme, and which is due to publish its report this month.

“Life’s not fair is it?” he said. “Life’s shit. It’s great being all cuddly and care bears and that sort of stuff.

“Some of us need more support than others. They shouldn’t be wasting their time on us – me and Wendy – when they’ve got four other guys who’ve got to go and win a medal.

“I would have felt really guilty if I’d taken the support staff and coaches’ time up and that had detracted from their performance,” he added.

“I’d have affected four other people and just being selfish and thinking of myself … I don’t think I should go the press and complain that I haven’t ridden.”

He also recalled a conversation with former Great Britain Cycling Team technical director Shane Sutton shortly before the March 2016 Track Worlds in London where he won silver in the team pursuit. Sutton would resign the following month.

“About two or three weeks before I was struggling so I texted Shane and asked if we could meet for a coffee,” he reflected.

“He had always said his door was open and I had never taken him up on that. I could see my Olympics slipping away.

“In my opinion when I asked for support it was there. At the end of the day I went to the big boss – not my coach, I skipped about four steps – and he was willing to take time out of his schedule and sit down for about and hour and half. I think it was a Starbucks in Wilmslow.

“And then I won a silver and a bronze at that World championships and a lot of that was through being able to talk to him,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

17 comments

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Velovoyeur [56 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes

Well said, Mr Tennant. At last someone who understands what it is like at the leading edge of elite sport where winning is everything. People who feel they should be rewarded for "doing well" are always going to struggle in that environment. Competition is uncompromising whether on the track, in business or in life. Some people need to come to terms with that. Fear of not winning is a great motivator but some you win and some you lose. If you don't win, at least learn from the loss.

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes
Velovoyeur wrote:

Competition is uncompromising whether on the track, in business or in life.

there seems to be a bit of conceptual slippage there - on the track there are clear rules and measurable outcomes - to then apply this across the board would seem to then justify precisely the sort of behaviour that others are highlighting as undesirable - surely the purpose of sport is to channel this "law of the jungle" mentality in non-destructive ways rather than apply it in all walks of life?

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Velovoyeur [56 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

The assumption is that the rules are adhered to in all areas. 

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes
Velovoyeur wrote:

The assumption is that the rules are adhered to in all areas. 

absolutely - in discussing the situation in previous threads it was pointed out that the selection procedure is far from clear or transparent and this needs remedying 

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Velovoyeur [56 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

Agree with the comments about selection criteria but, unfortunately, assembling any team isn't just about performance and figures. There are personalities and team dynamics to be considered; any of which can affect the outcome of a team's performance. This is not formulaic or defined. The well utilised phrase about a team of champions not winning any races is based on examples of many failed teams across all sports. A lot of people can recount situations where they have been in a team with a top performer but there has been no team spirit or commitment from other members. Getting the right blend of personalities and performances is always a difficult task - especially when you have a selection of  competitive, elite athletes to chose from. Under those circumstances you have to let the results be the yardstick on the selection choices.

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davel [2055 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

Track sprinting is about as mathematical as a sport can be: can you bang out n watts for n seconds? No? Well he can: don't question me - here's the computer software. It isn't football where it's all subjective and the manager's decision is final and if you don't like it you can always put in a transfer request (or 'retire from international football').

To your earlier point: the law of the jungle is fine, as long as everyone knows what the law is. As soon as it isn't clear, you question it - after all, it isn't the law of the jungle, is it? It's some manmade rules, and if those rules are woolly or are being upheld inconsistently, the fault lies with the authorities.

Where BC have left the door open to (possibly gratuitous - who knows) complaints is that they have allowed too much subjectivity to creep in. They didn't show Varnish her stats. They didn't adequately explain Tre Whyte's omission from the Worlds. Without examples like this, if Houvenaghel complains that the conditions of her getting a run weren't crystal clear, 5 years ago, the public shrugs its shoulders and it gets lost in the noise.

I used to manage a capital markets team. I signed off some traders' bonuses that could have paid off my mortgage. And the criteria were as objective as they could possibly be - I didn't want woolliness and complaints creeping into it. People hit targets or didn't; got % bonuses or didn't. And there were no complaints.

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
davel wrote:

To your earlier point: the law of the jungle is fine, as long as everyone knows what the law is.

my point was more that sport is generally a zero-sum game whereas in life, this sort of thinking leads to some of the more stupid and aggressive behaviour we commonly witness from motons.

as competition for places would also seem to be a zero-sum game, it is therefore important for clear rules and boundaries, rather than the sort of idea that, "that's just life, if you can't stand the heat then tough luck" sort of mentality.

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davel [2055 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
beezus fufoon wrote:
davel wrote:

To your earlier point: the law of the jungle is fine, as long as everyone knows what the law is.

my point was more that sport is generally a zero-sum game whereas in life, this sort of thinking leads to some of the more stupid and aggressive behaviour we commonly witness from motons.

as competition for places would also seem to be a zero-sum game, it is therefore important for clear rules and boundaries, rather than the sort of idea that, "that's just life, if you can't stand the heat then tough luck" sort of mentality.

I agree. I was responding more to velovoyeur - sorry, should've been clearer.

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pwake [429 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes
davel wrote:

Track sprinting is about as mathematical as a sport can be: can you bang out n watts for n seconds? No? Well he can: don't question me - here's the computer software. It isn't football where it's all subjective and the manager's decision is final and if you don't like it you can always put in a transfer request (or 'retire from international football').

That is actually incorrect. It is not all down to the numbers; for instance, a smaller rider can put out less watts and be faster due to the exponential nature of aerodynamics (Cav?). And, tactics; confidence, these kind of intangibles play a massive part in success in these events and you can't quantify them. That's why good coaches are not mathematicans but more 'people people'.

Bravo to Andy Tennant for giving an alternative, truthful view rather than jumping on the bandwagon.

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
pwake wrote:

That's why good coaches are not mathematicans but more 'people people'.

abstractly this makes total sense - in reality we are talking about Shane Sutton 

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pwake [429 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
beezus fufoon wrote:
pwake wrote:

That's why good coaches are not mathematicans but more 'people people'.

abstractly this makes total sense - in reality we are talking about Shane Sutton 

Pretty much my point really. Sometimes you need a coach like Sutton to tell you that you are riding like a c**t to make you realise you're riding like a c**t!

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Yorkshire wallet [1639 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

At the end of the day whatever went on brought in loads of medals and negatively affected a very small pool of people . Seems like overkill against what goes on in your everyday workplace. I bet loads of people are unhappy at work. It's only athletes that seem to think we should know all about it. My boss's boss is an arsewipe but I doubt we need an inquiry into it.

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes
pwake wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
pwake wrote:

That's why good coaches are not mathematicans but more 'people people'.

abstractly this makes total sense - in reality we are talking about Shane Sutton 

Pretty much my point really. Sometimes you need a coach like Sutton to tell you that you are riding like a c**t to make you realise you're riding like a c**t!

sure - from the perspective of someone with absolutely no people skills, he might appear as some kind of interpersonal communications god

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beezus fufoon [973 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

At the end of the day whatever went on brought in loads of medals and negatively affected a very small pool of people . Seems like overkill against what goes on in your everyday workplace. I bet loads of people are unhappy at work. It's only athletes that seem to think we should know all about it. My boss's boss is an arsewipe but I doubt we need an inquiry into it.

if it is that acceptable, then why try to sweep it under the carpet?

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davel [2055 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
pwake wrote:
davel wrote:

Track sprinting is about as mathematical as a sport can be: can you bang out n watts for n seconds? No? Well he can: don't question me - here's the computer software. It isn't football where it's all subjective and the manager's decision is final and if you don't like it you can always put in a transfer request (or 'retire from international football').

That is actually incorrect. It is not all down to the numbers; for instance, a smaller rider can put out less watts and be faster due to the exponential nature of aerodynamics (Cav?). And, tactics; confidence, these kind of intangibles play a massive part in success in these events and you can't quantify them. That's why good coaches are not mathematicans but more 'people people'.

Bravo to Andy Tennant for giving an alternative, truthful view rather than jumping on the bandwagon.

You kind of give your bias away with "truthful" - were you there?

You use Cav as an example: he knows exactly by how much Kittel is faster than him, he knows exactly when to go and exactly when he's fooked. And this is in a bunch sprint with a zillion other variables with 100 miles in the legs. That has jack-all to do with the softer stuff you mention: it's because they know each others' numbers.

This is riding a bike in a circle. They'll have pored over their lap times. Tactics and personality is of minimal consideration - the 4 fastest robots make the cut. Admittedly I have zero track cycling experience, but I was a regional/national level competitor at sprinting in athletics during my teens, and it was measurement and spreadsheets, performamce against benchmark and targets, and plotting your periodisation and peaking. When you've got a bunch of hormonal sprinters stuff has to be justifiable and objective when you're telling them they haven't made it.

Unless Houvenaghel is a royal pain in the arse or massive bottler: in which case, which genius decided she should even be taking up a space in the team?

Avatar
davel [2055 posts] 9 months ago
5 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

At the end of the day whatever went on brought in loads of medals and negatively affected a very small pool of people . Seems like overkill against what goes on in your everyday workplace. I bet loads of people are unhappy at work. It's only athletes that seem to think we should know all about it. My boss's boss is an arsewipe but I doubt we need an inquiry into it.

Is your boss's boss paid with public money and with a mission to further participation in a particular discipline?

Avatar
Legin [142 posts] 9 months ago
5 likes

So one of the lads defends the lads culture at BC; what a shock. What right does he have to criticise or comment on the bullying and sexism if he didn't experience it. Nicole Cook, et al offer more credible testimony!