Tour of Britain: Tiernan Locke reacts to top career victory
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tour of Britain: Tiernan Locke reacts to top career victory

by Shane Stokes at 7:59 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Britain
 
Climbing talent tipped for Team Sky contract

Jonathan Tiernan LockeIt’s taken nine editions but Jon Tiernan Locke became the first home winner of the modern Tour of Britain today, succeeding where his countrymen missed out before and in doing so, registering the best performance of his career.

The 27 year old Endura Racing rider made it clear that the race was a major target of his, setting it out as his prime season goal after finishing fifth overall last year and winning the King of the Mountains title. That known intention plus a number of victories earlier this season pinpointed him as one of the riders to watch yet, despite the fact that he was closely marked by his rivals, he was able to pull off the overall win.

“We didn’t know the route and lots of things can change, so you never know,” he said, making clear that his win was not a given. “Towards the end of the season it’s been my goal to build towards it; my form has been good and we started to believe in it. We had a training camp, all the guys backed me and it paid off.”

Tiernan Locke showed his 2012 form early on when he won the Tour Mediterranean and Tour du Haut Var in February, taking an early lead in the UCI’s Europe Tour classification. However after netting second in the Vuelta a la Region de Murcia in March, his momentum was jarred when he crashed and fractured his collarbone in May’s Lincoln GP.

He returned from the injury and built up again to win the Tour Alsace in July. He then clocked up sixth in the following month’s Vuelta a Leon, a stepping stone towards reaching the Tour of Britain in top shape.

While many were looking to Team Sky as being the likely biggest challengers, others tipped Tiernan Locke as being one of the favourites. Asked about that tag today, he said that it did place additional stress on him at the time.

“It’s nice to be included in a list like that but I think you feel the extra pressure, especially going into the stages that you know don’t suit you,” he said. “Like the first four stages…all I could have got out of those is losing time. I am not going to gain anything on them so those are a bit stressful. To not lose time in the bunch sprints or fall off was added pressure, but we coped with it.”

The second half of the race was much hillier and enabled him to use his explosive uphill abilities. He attacked hard on the sixth stage, racing clear of the bunch on the first ascent of Caerphilly Mountain, maintaining his gap on the second time up and then finishing as runner up to NetApp’s Leopold Konig. That saw him take over the race leader’s gold jersey, and he successfully defended it until the end.

He rode strongly, but so too did his Endura Racing team. “[It was] unbelievable,” he said. “You’ve seen how professionally we’ve ridden here all week. They haven’t feared reputations, we’ve just taken it up from stage one when we rode.

“People may have questioned why we were doing it but we got rid of some GC contenders on that day. Each day we’ve taken our opportunity and, by the end, we only had a handful of guys to worry about.”

Going by the UCI 2.1 rankings, Tiernan Locke’s victories in the Tour Mediterranean and Tour du Haut Var are on the same level as his Tour of Britain success. However he doesn’t see it that way at all; rather, he perceives his success this week as far more significant.

“It’s well clear of the others, right at the top for sure,” he asserted. “Not just because it’s the Tour of Britain but, because of all the crowds and support, it’s just been on another level.”

Next up for him is the world road race championships next Sunday. He is an explosive climber in a similar mould to riders such as Joaquim Rodriguez, and is seen by some as a dark horse for the worlds. However he plays this down, saying that he hasn’t been told yet what his role will be. He’ll also be aware that he has far less experience than the WorldTour riders in races of that length.

Still, British fans will be very curious to see how he can do. He’s strongly tipped to be part of Team Sky next year and if this Tour of Britain is anything to go by, a bright future could well lie ahead.

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