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British cyclists - powered by coffee

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Ollie Williams | 14:12 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Plenty of us need it as a pick-me-up in the morning, but would you have had Britain's finest track cyclists down as coffee addicts?

It turns out the GB team are every bit as keen on the bean as desk-dwellers hugging their mugs at work.

And with two of Britain's top team pursuiters - Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas - away on road-racing duty, one of the squad's leading baristas has the chance to blend with the world's best at next week's Track World Championships in the Netherlands.

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GB track cyclist Andy Tennant talks coffee

Andy Tennant has just turned 24, and he divides his time between bikes and brews. We toured his house in Wilmslow and found it adorned with coffee art, coffee mugs, coffee beans and coffee machines.

It's a habit he picked up when living in Italy. At one cafe there, he says, "you could put your spoon in the froth and it'd stand up on its own". The habit has come back to Britain with him, and now - if not at the velodrome - he can be found loitering around specialist coffee shop Coffee Fix in nearby Stockport.

But he's far from the only one, as this photo evidence tweeted by Tennant during February's Track World Cup proves. It shows British track sprinting legend Sir Chris Hoy, replete with coffee machine, inside the team hotel.

"I speak about coffee quite a bit with Chris," admits Tennant. "He's into it as much as me."

Nor is this phenomenon restricted to cycling. Some of Britain's sprint canoeists, on a recent warm-weather training trip to Australia, made such friends at a local coffee shop that the Antipodean owners left the GB team a goodbye note reading: "We've done our best to sabotage you with our amazing coffee and delicious sweets."

British canoeist Jon Schofield, a world bronze medallist, wrote on his blog: "On our last day they made us all coffees and muffins on the house and sent us packing with a selection of their best single origin and blend beans - really kind of them and I only hope we will be back next year."

Back in Britain I counted more than two-dozen mugs, from various coffee establishments, lining the shelves in the Tennant's kitchen when we paid a visit. Further tweets of his suggest that number is only set to grow.

"In Amsterdam now," he wrote on Friday morning as the team arrived in the Netherlands ahead of the competition. "A little wait for us as the boat with the van on has been delayed. Been told there's a Starbucks, I can add to my mug collection." ("How dare you visit Starbucks," came the reply from Coffee Fix.)

Next week is a huge opportunity for Tennant. He already has a European gold medal in the team pursuit but, to have any hope of unseating the big guns for 2012, he'll need to produce something special at the World Championships and he knows it.

"I want to be standing on the top step of the podium (in 2012), there's nothing else that drives me, I want to be in that team.

"But that's going to be the first hard thing. We'll see how it goes. If I do my best and that's not good enough, then I've got to accept it."

Asked whether coffee makes for the greatest of elite training aids, Tennant replies: "It's probably not great. But it gives me a bit of morale at least... and caffeine's good for performance."

Update 1428: The moment I finished writing this, Tennant's GB team-mate Becky James tweeted: "In Coffee Fix with Dani King, Jess Crampton, Matthew Crampton and Jason Kenny! Last coffee and cake here for a little while." All are top, or aspiring, cyclists. You must not be able to move in there for thigh muscles.

Tennant will aim to be in action with the British men's team pursuiters on the evening of Wednesday, 23 March at the Track World Championships. You can watch live online on the BBC Sport website if you live in the UK, with coverage on BBC Two over the weekend. Check our site for more details.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Coffee has long be considered to assist performance in sport. My mate Will used to get me coffee before we do a run with Trongate Harriers and we always ran at least a minute quicker. He left the club and now my runs are a little slower due to the lack of coffee and slower teammates. BTW Good blog.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ollie, good topic. I appreciate that you may be writing to the uninitiated but anyone who knows anything about endurance sport and cycling will in no way be surprised that the GB cyclists are into coffee. Firstly it's a well known (legal) stimulant. Secondly it tastes great and since athletes are unlikely to indulge much in alcohol (I include myself) they can get a kick from coffee. Finally, it's part of the cycling culture to stop for coffee and cake on a long ride. God forbid if it's ever put on the banned list!

 

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