Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing) says adding to Britain’s summer of sporting success feels “great”.
The first British winner in the modern era of the national tour sealed his victory at the end of a nine-week period that has witnessed Bradley Wiggins’ coronation as the first Briton to win the Tour de France and an Olympic and Paralympic gold rush.
After Rory McIIroy’s triumph in the PGA Championship, and Andy Murray’s first grand slam triumph in the US Open, Tiernan-Locke has placed cycling back at the top of the nation’s sporting agenda.
“It’s great to contribute to that at the end of it,” said Tiernan-Locke of a British sporting summer that is arguably the nation’s greatest. “It’s a week away from the end of my season, so it’s great personally to cap it off like that. To add to that success, it’s great to be a part of it.”
The Devonian, whose 2012 season had already brought overall victory in the Tour of the Mediterranean, Haut Var, and the Tour d’Alsace, said victory in the Tour of Britain was his greatest achievement.
He described the scale of support on the final stage, where thousands lined the 147.7km route through Surrey as “unbelievable” and said crowds lining the streets of Guildford in rows 10 deep had made the peloton’s first passage through town, after just 33km, feel like the end of the race.
Tiernan-Locke assumed the lead of the Tour of Britain at the summit of Caerphilly Mountain at the end of stage six, and successfully defended it the following day on the toughest stage of the race from Barnstaple to Dartmouth, where the Devon native raced on home roads.
Yesterday, he moved to shut down an attempted breakaway on the first category climb of Barthatch Lane, where he had reacted, he said, “on principle” to protect the team’s aim of a bunch finish. The stage victory of Mark Cavendish, only the second Briton to be crowned world road race champio, he said had “added value” to a final stage he said had been “pretty straightforward”.
“There was that one steep climb where the race just blew apart, but it came back together. It was a really fast run in. Sky were going flat out and a couple of my teammates were as well,” he added.
Brian Smith, general manager of Endura Racing, told a press conference to launch the team at the London Bike Show in January that his greatest ambition for the team this year was to win the Tour of Britain. Tiernan-Locke was always the team’s most likely candidate for such a victory, but said mid-season illness and injury had made his bid for victory in his home tour less than certain until a recent return to form.
“Towards the end of the season, the last, say, two or three months, it’s been my goal to build towards it [the Tour of Britain] and the form’s been good. We started to believe in it. We had a training camp and all the guys backed me and it paid off,” he said.
Having won four rounds and the team classification of the Halfords Tour Series, and the Premier Calendar, as well as a host of international wins, Endura Racing rode strongly from the opening stage of the Tour of Britain, often working with and sometimes rivaling Team Sky for control of the peloton.
“They were unbelievable,” Tiernan-Locke said of his teammates. “You see how professionally they’ve ridden all week. They haven’t feared reputation. They’ve just taken it up from stage one,” he said, adding that the team’s decision to attack the race from the opening day had allowed theme to “whittle down” the number of contenders capable of posing a threat.
It is widely believed Tiernan-Locke will join Team Sky next season and while he refused to be drawn on his future plans, he confirmed that a statement was due “within days”. He will be the only rider from outside of Team Sky’s ranks to ride for Great Britain in the world road race championships in Limburg, Holland next week, except for BMC Racing’s Steve Cummings, who rode for Sky in 2010-11.
The race ends on the brutal cobbled climb of the Cauburg, the denouement of the Amstel Gold Race, the first of the season’s three Ardennes Classics. Tiernan-Locke said he had watched this year’s race on television and footage of the 1998 world road race championships the last time the race was held there.
An elite field, in which Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will start among the favourites, will begin ten laps of a circuit including the 900 metre Bemelberg and 1200metre Cauberg, having already raced 106 kilometres.
“It’s so long and the quality of the field is so high, it’s a bit of an unknown for me,” Tiernan-Locke admitted. “I’ve done [raced] about 250k, but I think this is 270. It just gets faster and faster. It’s not a race where the top guys are on their knees by the end, and the fastest laps are the last couple of so,” he said.
The Tour of Britain champion said his role for Great Britain in Limburg had yet to be discussed.