Pete Kennaugh: Dave Brailsford told me: “believe me normal life sucks”

Pete Kennaugh is back in the house where he grew up. Inside are his hopes and dreams for the future as he took the first steps towards his career as a professional cyclist.

The pages contain mantras to guide him on his way to the top of the sport, short journal entries about his life as it was then as a teenager in hopes of turning pro. Now, re-reading it in his early 30s for the first time since, Kennaugh almost shuddered.

“I said it in the movie, it was pretty intense, it’s pretty serious,” says Kennaugh Weekly Cycling, after teaming up with Wahoo for a mini-documentary looking back on the life of the former Sky rider two years after stepping away from the pro peloton to focus on “rediscovering happiness, motivation and enthusiasm”.

“Come to think of it… it was part of the process of my journey to become a professional, I guess,” he says of his dreams manifesting through scrapbooking into his reality. “I felt like it was pretty serious for a 15-year-old, but it obviously helped me get to where I wanted to be.”

A boy who was so obsessed with getting to the Olympics didn’t care about missing out on normal teenage stuff. Nightlife, or the Tinnies’ less glamorous pastime in the park, was of little interest. He spent endless school days waiting for the club run on Saturday. On the weekends, he was in his element sprinting towards the sign, stopping at the cafe for bean toast. There was no pressure from his parents or anyone who could sense his talent, he was just allowed to go out and ride his bike.

Kennaugh’s first evenings were when he moved to Manchester after entering the British Cycling Academy, living in Fallowfield, the epicenter of the city’s student life. Kennaugh would ride with the other academy members into central Manchester after the athletics league had darkened on a Tuesday night while the rest of their peers headed the other way to bars and clubs.

“The first year at the Academy, I was really strict,” says Kennaugh. “I’ve been talking a lot about complacency lately and I really wasn’t complacent at that age, I felt like I had to work to get to where I wanted to be.

“The second year, once I got a few results and felt a little more secure in my abilities, then I had a few nights of fun. I remember going on a track session with Rob Hayles [after a night out], training for the Madison World Cup and I had literally slept for an hour.

“You know how you walk the line for the team pursuit? We had to hold the line but in the Madison, so just me and fly down the track and I was absolutely rocking and I went out. I said, ‘Rod [Ellingworth], I have to be honest with you buddy, I went out last night, I slept two hours ”. I think he was just thankful that I was being honest with that… he was pretty strict, Rod. “

“It’s like a constant roller coaster”

Pete kennaugh

(Image credit: Getty)

In the years since those early days, Kennaugh rose to the top of the sport, Olympic glory at home Games and a key lieutenant during Team Sky’s glory years.

In 2019, however, Kennaugh admits he had lost touch with reality. He put on the brakes and put a stop to his career.

“To be honest, I felt like I had completely lost touch with reality, like the value of the pound, just everything,” admits Kennaugh of life inside the cycling bubble.

“Stopping was obviously something I had to do, but it was also like a huge reality check. We just never got a chance to do it because the season is so fast you get a month [of off-season] where you go on vacation, go out at night, all the things you can’t do during the season, and then all of a sudden you go back to training, you don’t have the space or the time to really get you sit down and collect your thoughts and determine where you are at. It’s like a constant roller coaster.

Over the past three years, Kennaugh has now taken the time and space to catch up, familiarize himself with the learning curve for understanding life, which eventually everyone has to try. But when you are an athlete, you can exist in a vacuum that provides you with very clear and defined goals and objectives, which allows you to keep any existential crisis at bay until cracks start to appear and everything is broken. ‘collapses.

It might be a Isle of Man thing, but Kennaugh, like Mark Cavendish, is an intriguing character. Wide-eyed and uninterrupted eye contact, he speaks between exasperated sighs of swollen cheeks as he relives the mental turmoil, recounting the journey of scrapbooking hopes to the other side of making those dreams come true and the emotional toll. who put the man behind the rider.

Pete kennaugh

(Image credit: Wahoo)

So, after a few years of thinking, what advice would he give now to the young man who was writing on this album all those years ago?

“I don’t know, I feel like I would probably have more advice for the 24 year old version of myself,” he decides. “I feel like when I was 16, I was really happy with the way I lived my life and how everything has developed. Yes, I was serious, but I liked it.

“But then, in my mid-twenties, I got to this weird headspace where I just was never present. I was walking around my parents’ house and felt like a fly on the wall watching their conversations. Even when I went to races, I was always stressed out without realizing it. It was really hard to be there and just enjoy the moment. I was always concerned about what happened next.

“The advice I would give to myself in my twenties is to live in the moment and enjoy it. Look around and watch what you are doing and take it in. I was always in this weird zone, not letting myself really appreciate or imbibe what I was doing, I felt like I was on autopilot all the time.

Shortly after leaving Bora-Hansgrohe, ITV reached out to Kennaugh to see if he would be interested in being part of their Tour de France coverage. He was worried, having just gotten away from the sport he had fallen in love with, but knew this was not an opportunity he could pass up.

So he ended up in France in July, the following years then spent in a less glamorous environment in Maidstone due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop him from developing his diffusion skills and chemistry to the screen with Ned Boulting and David. Millar.

“It’s something I really enjoyed doing, commenting on the Tour de France,” says Kennaugh. “But I don’t think I would like to do it all year round, go from race to race to race. But it was a great experience.

It might be too much of a throwback to his old lifestyle.

“You basically live in a suitcase throughout your career,” he continues. “So many times you would come home without even unpacking it. I mean, most of the time everything gets washed up on the run anyway. So you got home for two days and maybe took out a few things and then you pack it up and go again.

However, there are whispers. In the film, Kennaugh begins to ride his bike again, having originally turned to running to calm the soul, turning the pedals “rekindled the fire,” he says, and a return to the sport is underway. now on the horizon.

“I think I got to the point two years ago where I just wasn’t coming back to the sport in any way,” admits Kennaugh.

“But I feel like I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m passionate again and I want to be involved. In what context ? I do not know. The next couple of months I’m trying to figure out if it works for a team, to ride somehow, or just ride a bike to have a good time on the club run. But I think I’ve come to this point now, where [before] I was never there at all. There is always still a bit of battle and a bit of struggle. “

Pete kennaugh

(Image credit: Getty)

He continues to think, as if he is working through the thinking process to decide his future in real time.

“I don’t really know which direction next year is going to take me, here and now I’m going to figure that out. I will probably find out in a month or two. But in my head, I want to have a direction and a plan by December, find out what I’m doing from a career perspective and then really go for it. I’m three now, I had the ITV stuff but other than that it’s just brainstorming thoughts and ideas of what I want to do.

Once you’re in the world of cycling it’s pretty hard to get out of it, and Kennaugh is no exception.

“When you stop you realize you’re actually pretty good at it, cycling,” he says. “And it’s such a big world and there are so many things that you’re just not good at,” he laughs.

“It’s so true though!

“That’s what I realized like, Jesus Christ, even writing an email with correct grammar, you know what I mean?” “

Sort of, but for all of us normal people, it’s much more inconceivable to climb mountains pushing the watts than Kennaugh and his ilk are doing.

A father of four, a more relevant comparison to put things in perspective would be the question of which is more difficult, raising four children or doing the Tour de France?

“Do the Tour de France every day”, answers Kennaugh without wasting time. “Honestly, four kids, actually I’m going to have to thank Lauren [for that]. Honestly, it’s a cinch.

“Obviously we had Alba [his fourth] in june which was a surprise my head fell off for about four months but now it’s here it’s great. To like.”

There are few excuses with Kennaugh, who has enough stories and the openness to share them that it’s no surprise he’s been so successful as an expert.

“Brailsford told me once, probably in 2014, I think I came home to the Ardennes, I wasn’t feeling well. And we were just talking about normal life and stuff and he was like, ‘believe me, normal life sucks. You don’t want to go ‘. And I was like, ‘why?’

“I mean, that’s his take on it… it sure doesn’t suck, but I think what he was trying to do is make the most of what you do well in the business. life because it goes fast.

“I’m 32 now, I’ll be 40 before you know it, then 50. And all of a sudden it’s done, isn’t it? I think that’s the point. ‘he was trying to argue. So yeah, that’s where I am up to the minute. “

Of all the superhuman sports monsters who have cycled competitively, Pete Kennaugh is perhaps the most human.

About Mildred B.

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