Why Connor Jennings and souls like him are the future of racing on the road.
Connor Jennings is not a professional cyclist. If you’ve ever took a turn behind him on the pedals, however, you could be excused for thinking the 27-year-old New Hampshire native was a full-on pro. But catch him out of riding kit, his pressed suit and tie (with matching suit-and-tie haircut) reveal a representative for the senior senator for the state of New Hampshire.
Connor is a fixer.
While he’s often confused for a Secret Service Agent while driving Senator Jeanne Shaheen around the Granite State, Connor is a community-minded guy tasked with liaising to military and veterans’ affairs, a guy who during business hours connects to the Department of Defense and the National Archives. “I identify problems individuals have with these agencies, work to bring them to the attention of the agency and obtain official responses.”
The work as a “Special Assistant for Constituent Services” takes patience and a process and Connor has a gift for both.
Connor (reflected) looks on as Senator Shaheen meets with constituents.
“I always like to improve on where I was the last time I did something. It isn’t just this work. Cycling really allows you to look back and see those kind of moments, analyze them, and move forward to do it better next time out.”
Those marginal gains have added up. Attend the famed Exeter Group Ride near Connor’s home and you’ll see his smooth low cadence pedal stroke driving the pace amidst a handful of professionals, serious racers and hangers-on. Yet, there’s a balance to the training.
“It’s super important for me to always fall back on knowing this is a hobby and not to put too much stress on getting that ride in, or doing well in that race. Do the best with what you’ve got to work with, and at the end of the day, enjoy being able to do this sport as much as possible.”
Connor chases racing as a member of the regional elite, Velocio Northeast Team, a like-minded group of elite racers and former pro athletes turned weekend warriors. “When it comes down to it, we'll ride ourselves into the ground for each other, but what drew me to this group originally was the minimal-stress nature of how they go about racing and training. We all have professional lives and do our best to race and train at a high level. And when we do get the opportunity to showcase how much we put into the sport, we make sure that it's 100% of our ability.”
And therein lies the magic: a balanced life with a focus on performing, maximizing whatever talents one has, and marrying love and commitment to riding, landed Connor a fulfilling season: he finished the road year with a win in the Green Mountain Stage Race Criterium, a regional staple and a hotly contested race.
“When I saw the race for the first time as a spectator, I was a sophomore at the University of Vermont in 2009, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around going so fast, especially after racing the previous three days as hard as they were. To win in a place I consider my second home like Burlington—it’s tough to put into words. It just makes me smile and appreciate how it all came together at that moment in that city with those friends and fellow racers and fans.”
Connor Jennings is not a professional cyclist. But being committed, driven, exacting, patient and talented puts him in a different spot as the cycling world tilts and spins ever further around World Tour pro’s, finely coifed and spending most of their hours prostrate on a hotel twin bed awaiting the next pedal turn. It’s a different spot still than the much talked-about and ever pleasant textures of the gravel set and its welcoming scene, competition marked by grit.
However, Connor stakes out another cultural tent pole under which loving how bikes move on pavement, unapologetic drive towards pedaling fast and organizing a life, a complete life, around the sport means flying through the world with an unflinching look at what’s coming at you.
“I’m just really grateful,” Connor finishes.