John Tenney

In this article we feature our Race Director John Will Tenney. He has been with the team since 2015

KBS: John please tell us how you got started in racing.

I started running to lose weight, and found I couldn’t do it every day, so I got out the old rusty bike. Needed a new one. Bought a Giant Defy and started riding with a local club (ESCC). Two of the guys decided to put on a time trial series down on Aerospace Parkway. I said what the heck, I’ll try it. I was the only guy who showed up. I “won” my division (Eddy Merckx) of course. One of the organizers decided to start 2 minutes after me on his fancy TT bike. When he went by me it sounded like a car. That motivated me. I decided I needed to get faster. 6 years later, with a much thinner check book, I am still doing time trials and yes, I am faster, but not where I want to be.

KBS: Was there a particular health goal in mind?

Definitely to lose weight, keep the weight off, and live longer. In the beginning I rode to lose weight. Now I lose weight to ride faster

KBS: Tell us about your personal situation, that you’d like share. We know you’re married …

L to R: Grace, Sophie, Me, Kathleen – out in Hal Scott Preserve

Kathleen and I got married in 2000. Grace came along a year later and Sophie in 2006.

Kathleen, Grace and Sophie like to ride as well. They aren’t as nuts about it as I am, but Grace is starting to get more serious. I expect to see her on some KBS Thursday rides soon.

KBS: So you told us about your first race but how did you do really? What was your first USAC race?

My first race I averaged 18.1 mph. If you notice in the picture, I still have the “tree shield” on my helmet (very aero) along with a super slick t-shirt. It’s not in the picture but I didn’t have clip in pedals, I still had the toe clip baskets. Yes I was wearing sneakers.

My first USAC race was the Airport TT put on by Topview. There were about 20 riders out there and I think I finished 2nd to last overall. But, I had a slightly more aero helmet, clip in pedals and a real jersey. I looked it up – I did the 6.94 mile course in 20:16 – which is 20.5 mph. I joined the Winter Springs Cycling team at that time, with Peter Telep, Kevin Clark and a few others who you may or may not know.

L to R: Peter Telep, me, Kevin Clark, Matt Bowen

KBS: So you went straight from WSC to KBS?. What other disciplines are you racing now?

I started my own team in the middle, Orlando Runners and Riders, which is now part of KBS.

Really, the only other racing I am active at is cyclocross. I did a few road races, got dropped. Some circuit races, got dropped. Some mountain bike races, got in the way. I’d like to do some track racing. I currently hold the state 1 hr record but I’ve never done a track race, with other bikes on the track. I’d like to learn how to do “the throw” in the Madison event.

KBS: Are you done with road and crit racing?

Probably. Unless I can lose another 20 lbs I’ll just get dropped again and ride around by myself.

KBS: Tell us about your journey to joining Team Kyle’s Bike Shop.

Well there is a story there. ORR was originally sponsored by Bike Works. When they sold out to David’s World it was a complete shock to us, and we didn’t want to be with a shop that only carries one brand of bike. I like Giant bikes anyway. KBS was the nearest Giant dealer at that time. Kyle and Christy had come out to some of our TTs and we liked them. They were starting their own team – splitting from Team Fueled by Mila I believe – and a partnership was just the obvious thing to do. Looking back, it was also the right thing to do.

KBS: As you stated before, you were riding a road bike in TTs. How far have you come in your addiction?

You’ve heard the N+1 story. Fortunately my wife likes to ride and likes the cycling community, so I am happily the owner of 4 bikes. I don’t have a TT bike at present, so I use my track bike at TTs, if it’s allowed. Otherwise I Merckx it up with my Propel.

I also own a cross bike (Giant TCX) and co-own a mountain bike with Kyle. My fancy, custom (and expensive) mountain bike was stolen last summer. My next purchase will be a mountain bike of my own.

KBS: Who is your coach or trainer?

I am not paying a trainer on a regular basis, but Nathan Rogut and I work together on a lot of stuff, so he kind of “throws in” free training for me. It’s great to get advice from someone who has ridden European road tours and international events on the track. He has a gold medal from the Pan Am games.

KBS: Is it working?

Am I faster than before? Yeah slightly. I’m certainly a way better bike handler than I was. I’m 61 years old so I don’t expect to be setting any speed records. However, my success has not come from speed but by persistence. I won some championship jerseys last year. I did it by being at more races than the other guys and accumulating more points. Some may say that doesn’t count but then I ask them, “Why don’t you do it?”

KBS: What’s in the future for you? Any goals you are shooting for? Any records?

My goals are personal health related. I’m not trying to win any races but I would like to defend my titles from last year. I would like to improve my performance on the cross courses. I don’t want to get lapped this year.

KBS: You are the team race director. Tell us about that?

In 2012 I started putting on TTs on Aerospace Parkway here in East Orlando. I couldn’t find anyone to insure me, which is a double hit because I am in insurance agent in “real life.” I joined USAC to get their insurance, and applied to be a referee/director so I could put on and ref my own races. They started to catch on and apparently I can do it competently sometimes because people still show up for them. I haven’t made any real money but I do pay myself $50 for reffing a race, which is the USAC guideline. It’s beer money really. Most of the money goes right back to the team, or our charities. That’s an important thing we do. We have a vetting committee that investigates the charities and makes sure they are really charities, and not big businesses using the 501 as a tax shelter. We started our own 501 as well, which helps people stuck in prison with no family to support them. Others we support include Samaritan Resource Center, a mission for the homeless in East Orlando, Amateur Athlete Assistance, which helps athletes who get injured beyond the extent of their health insurance, and Tough Biker, who teaches city kids how to ride bikes.

Sorry – you asked me about race director and started talking about our missions. Well I guess they are related. Our most exciting event is the annual Cross Fest at OMBP. We will be doing “this year’s” cross fest next year actually, in January. The cross season starts in September and ends in February so stuff like that happens.

KBS: OK Last question before we get in to the serious stuff: What would you advise someone who was just getting started in racing?

Go to a local bike shop and talk to them. Tell them your goals, build up a relationship, some trust, and some credit. Participate in their events. Get involved. Remember, 90% of success is showing up at the race.

KBS: OK now the serious questions: Monica, Rachel or Phoebe? Or if you prefer, Ginger, Maryann or Mrs. Howell

Kathleen reminds me both of Rachel and Maryann so that’s easy.

KBS: OK, shaved legs or the full Chewbacca?

I shave my legs before every TT – I can feel the difference

KBS: Clinchers or tubulars?

Clinchers, that’s what I’m used to. I don’t think I ever want to bother with the hassle of tubulars.

KBS: Toilet paper over or under?

Under. It allows “one handed operation” because I usually have a book (or yeah, sometimes my phone) in the other hand.

KBS: OK anything else you want to say to the world?

Meeting Kyle and Christy was one of the best things to happen in our lives. Yeah we don’t always get along, we fight some times but we make up. They are good people and they surround themselves with other good people. I am so proud to be affiliated with all the people on this team. I’d try to name them all but I would forget someone by accident and I don’t want to hurt any feelings. You are all amazing.

KBS: OK John, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

Me and my neighbor Dave Friedberg, who I ride with 3 or 4 times a week. He is a new member of the team.