Talkingshop: Team Sky a Reality for Jon Tiernan-Locke

VeloUK talks to Tour of the Med & Tour of Britain winner Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing) on his signing for Team Sky

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It has been some year for Jon Tiernan-Locke which ended with him signing for the British WorldTour team, Sky after no less than nine wins. The year started with victory in a major early season stage race classic, the Tour of the Med and then ended with him winning the Tour of Britain.

Talking to the 27 year old Endura Racing rider for 2012, he explained that it’s nice that his signing for Team Sky for 2013 is now a reality after all the speculation during the year.

Tiernan-Locke is thrilled to have signed on the dotted line, and said: “It’s an incredible opportunity for me to step up from the UCI Continental ranks, and although I’ve really enjoyed my time at Endura, I couldn’t pass up the chance to join the world’s best team.”

“When you look at the season Team Sky have had, to even be considered by them was a massive honour for me, so I’m over the moon to be riding for them in 2013. This season’s results have given me a lot of confidence and I can’t wait to compete at the very top of the sport. I’m under no illusions – it’s going to be a big step up – but with all the support I’ll receive from the coaching staff, and having such talented riders around me, I’ll definitely be looking to up my game.”

Jon admits there is a lot of hard work ahead before kicking off the season in 2013. “This year (2012), it all came together for me with Endura Racing. I did everything I could to improve as a rider and then I had a great team around me. It’s been a combination of all those elements coming together.”

“2012 has been a steep learning curve. Taking on the responsibility as a team leader and I know I have a lot more to learn. I’m going in at the deep end at Sky with a big race programme ahead of me. I just want to get my head down and learn and hopefully do well.”

Jon Tiernan-Locke wearing the European UCI EuropeTour leader’s jersey. Pic: Joolze Dymond.

Looking back at an eventful September, Jon explained his win in the Tour of Britain never really had time to sink in because of the Worlds that followed so soon after and it wasn’t until he got back and caught up with mates he hadn’t seen in ages, he was able to properly reflect on it all.

“It was an amazing way to cap the year off” Jon explained. Asked if the Road Worlds gave him confidence he can race at that level, he replied “That was the biggest race I have done in distance and quality of the field. I’d ridden some 200 kilometre races but the Worlds was another 60 kilometres on top of that.”

Jon added that it wasn’t just the length of the race but the speed of it, something which was there all the time and the fatigue from that creeps up on a rider. Like the first few hours to the circuit where the peloton had to weave its way round the road furniture and tight bends which caused the riders behind the first part of the peloton to brake and then sprint to catch up again. Not just physically demanding but mentally too and dangerous.

Jon admits he made a few unnecessary efforts in the latter stages. “I went with Nibali, Valverde and Voeckler on the second to last time up the Cauberg and I was in a move with Gesink, Contador, Flecha and Castroviejo in another.”

The learning part explains Jon was seeing how eventual champion Gilbert was always there but not making the same efforts. “With three K to go, I was at the front but in the final, lacked a bit because of those moves I’d made that perhaps I didn’t need to. I paid for them but it was an experience and I lasted the distance. I don’t think it’s too unrealistic that with enough goes at races with a parcours like that, sooner or later I’ll be up there.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunity the selectors at GB gave me to ride it. Although the finishing position was not anything special, crucially I was in the mix.”

With the sport cleaner than it has ever been, riders are also giving more of themselves in training to ensure they can be competitive in the Worlds’ top races in the age of marginal gains. Bradley Wiggins victory in the Tour de France and other races is an example of that and Jon knows that next season will be a learning curve when it comes to preparing for World Tour races.

“I used to believe that there was only a certain amount you can get out of yourself. I used to think this won’t make a different, that won’t make a difference and I’d write them all off. But collectively, they do make a difference.”

“I used to do things half-heartedly but now I’m looking at everything where I can improve my own performance and get better. You never stop learning and I have only really taken things seriously in the last two or three years so there is more to come especially working with the sports analysts like Tim at Sky and the support staff at Sky who will help me to raise my game again”.

It’s still too early to know what races Jon will be doing in 2012 but he says that a rider’s programme is quite rider led and the team consult the riders a lot. “I have been used to winning races and I know I will have a domestique role next year” says Jon. “But I’d still like to personally win a race at a higher level. That will be pretty important to me if I do. I also want to become an integral part of that team and an asset as well.”

After what Jon showed in 2012 with wins in the Tour of Med, Haut Var, Tour Alsace and then the Tour of Britain, he is sure to be a key part of Team Sky. He’s shown he’s a winner and after the way Wiggins, Froome and so on have surprised the world with their abilities to win Grand Tours, it will be interesting to see where Jon Tiernan-Locke’s ability on a bike takes him.

Jon says he’ll continue to be based in the UK with his girlfriend and we wish him all the best in 2013. Coming up through the ranks of small British trade teams into Rapha and then Endura Racing, Jon is an inspiration to other riders that there are other pathways into the pro ranks. That said, the sport in Britain needs a team like Endura Racing to help take talented riders into the big European races and give them the same platform Jon had to show what he could do … Let’s hope such a team comes to the fore in 2013.



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