Local hero Jon emerging as a genuine Tour of Britain contender
SOUTH Devon pro cyclist Jon Tiernan-Locke is emerging as a genuine contender for the 2012 Tour of Britain.
The 2011 Tour of Britain was a breakthrough moment for the Mid Devon Cycling Club member, who rides for the highly-rated Endura team.
Having finished fifth overall in the General Classification and winning the Skoda King of the Mountains Jersey in the 2011 Tour, it was a successful eight days.
But he’s returning this year with the aim of doing even better.
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While he may be seen as a dark horse for the IG Markets Gold Jersey he knows he is a genuine contender this time around.
The Devon Stage of last year’s Tour in particular holds fond memories for Jon, dominating the Stage, and winning a hat-trick of Skoda King of The Mountain climbs on Dartmoor National Park in front of huge support at Haytor, Coffin Stone, and Huccaby Tor. Despite his impressive performance he firmly believes that he could have finished even higher up the order overall.
“Last year I hadn’t had the level of races to confirm to myself how I was going,” recalls Jon, who was the top-ranked rider in Europe after some stellar rides early this season.
“I targeted a couple of stages and it just happened on the road.
“It was good how it all just happened on the Devon Stage, everything just worked out that day. I had a plan and the race just unfolded as I wanted which left me in a position to break away on Dartmoor which was really awesome on my home stage and in front of friends, family and massive crowds.
“I would have been happy if someone had told me I would finish in the top five in The Tour, but with the focus I have now, I think I could have got more out of it had I been more measured and gone for the time bonuses – but it’s all ifs and buts.”
Endura Racing signed up Jon on the strength of his performance in last year’s Tour of Britain. He has paid them back with a string of top results, winning tough Stage races in France - The Tour Mediterranean, The Tour du Haut Var, and The Tour Alsace, making it his best season to date.
If he can maintain that sort of form, Jon is confident of more success at The Tour of Britain.
Jon said: “My form from the middle of last year got me to Endura Racing and this season has been my most successful yet. I should be in better form than last year because I’ve had a better year leading into it. I had to change things around mid-season because of injury but I’m back on track and racing in France and Spain has gone well. It’s looking good.
“Our training camp in Spain should see me arrive in the best possible condition, and I’m going in with a team to help me and my Spanish teammate Iker Camano in the General Classification, so that we have a couple of options.”
This year’s Devon Stage (Stage Seven) on Saturday 15 September covers 106 miles (170.7km) of the county, starting in Barnstaple and finishing in Dartmouth. Dartmoor National Park is again a major feature of the Stage, and it includes two Skoda King of the Mountains climbs on roads with which Jon is familiar, and he is fully aware that could prove to be an advantage on the penultimate stage of the eight day race.
Jon explained: “I know all of the roads from Okehampton. It’s going to be a brutal stage and I can’t wait for it. The last four days of this year’s Tour are going to be decisive and the climbs will be crucial. 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, so it will be hard to chase and I would like to be in the thick of the action there. It’s exciting just thinking about it because I know how hard it will be.”
Bigger crowds than ever are expected on Dartmoor and they are sure to be roaring on Jon at the Skoda King of the Mountains climbs at Merrivale and Coffin Stone. He’s determined to put on another strong showing, not just in front of home support, but throughout The Tour which he hopes could provide him with a shot to go on and ride one of cycling’s Grand Tours.
“I’m not going to be chasing King of the Mountains points,“ he admits.” I’m definitely looking at the General Classification. Winning overall would be a big ask, particularly against Bradley Wiggins, and the rest of the field is stronger than last year. But because there’s no time trial, whoever wants to win will have to attack and win the race on the climbs.
“I’ve always felt capable of results but I’ve never had the chance to race at this level before, but I think I’ve now shown what I can do, hopefully it will take me on to achieve my ambition of racing for a Pro Tour team.”
The Grand Depart of The Tour of Britain 2012 will take place in Ipswich on Sunday 9 September, with the final stage in Guildford on Sunday 16 September. Daily highlights of The Tour of Britain will be screened every evening on ITV4.