JTL couldn't have designed stage better for his skills
IF JONATHAN Tiernan-Locke could have chosen the 2012 route himself, he could hardly have come up with a course that would give him a better chance to become the first British winner in the modern history of the Tour of Britain.
Tiernan-Locke, who has launched his pro career from the strength-sapping climbs of the Westcountry, is at his best when the road goes uphill.
By general consent, this year's eight-stage route is the toughest for a many years.
And the race will almost certainly be decided over two hill-packed days in mid-Wales and then over Stage Seven, 106 miles that Locke knows so well from Barnstaple to Dartmouth next Saturday, September 15.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"It's going to be a brutal stage, and I can't wait for it," he said.
"The Devon stage is an opportunity to change the General Classification, and lots of time could be lost because, with the exception of Slapton Sands, there is no flat section at all, all the way to Dartmouth.
"As soon as you come out of Tavistock, it's up and down all day.
"I would like to be in the thick of the action there.
"And because there is no time trial in this year's race, whoever wants to win will have to attack and win the race on the climbs."
Everyone who watched and rode with him through his early days with Kingsteignton-based Mid-Devon CC/Colin Lewis Cycles knew that the club had someone special on its hands.
Locke has had to overcome bouts of illness, which cut more than two years out of his career just when it seemed set to take off the first time, and a couple of frustrating seasons with ill-fated UK teams who did not make the most of his talent.
It was when he joined the Rapha Condor-Sharp team last year that he really started to show what he could do.
By the time he made his Tour of Britain debut last September, Locke had produced a series of increasingly impressive performances, at home and abroad, and was ready to make his mark.
After warming up with good climbing days in stages around Staffordshire and mid-Wales, he put it all together on a memorable day over his home roads of South-East Dartmoor.
Cheered on by thousands of Westcountry bike fans, Locke attacked at the bottom of the three-mile climb from Bovey Tracey to Haytor, put half-a-minute into his nearest pursuers and plenty more into some top-class riders.
He never let up over further stiff climbs above Dartmeet and Hexworthy, ending all arguments over the King Of The Mountains competition in the space of half-an-hour of savage effort.
After building up a six-minute advantage over the race leaders, Locke couldn't find enough chasing rivals to work with him over the closing stages of the race to Exmouth.
He was caught, but he had fired some serious warning shots, had launched himself up the General Classification, and overall leader Lars Boom, of Holland's Rabobank team, watched him like a hawk.
Locke eventually finished fifth overall when the Tour reached London three days later.
A winter move to the ambitious Endura Racing team proved the springboard to further eye-catching progress.
Locke exploded onto this season with victories in two of France's most prestigious Spring races, the Tour Mediterranean and the Tour Haut Var, outclimbing all his rivals in the process.
Once again, ill-fortune threatened to disrupt his plans.
He was laid low by a virus for several weeks and then cracked a rib and broke his collarbone when he collided with a bollard in May's Lincoln Grand Prix.
But Locke recovered from those blows and announced that his recovery was complete by winning the Tour d'Alsace six weeks ago.
He currently lies third in the UCI Europe Tour rankings.