Talkingshop: Jon Tiernan-Locke


After a stellar 2012, VeloUK talks to last year’s Tour of Britain winner, Jon Tiernan-Locke a year on with a WorldTour outfit

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After a stellar 2012, VeloUK talks to last year’s Tour of Britain winner, Jon Tiernan-Locke a year on with a WorldTour outfit


Devon’s Jon Tiernan-Locke stunned the British cycling world by first winning the classic French stage race, the Tour of the Med before, at the other end of the season, being the first British overall winner of the Tour of Britain in its ninth year.

His reward was to get signed by Britain’s top UCI team, Team Sky, but far from being a stellar year, it’s been mixed and in some respects, a backward step and in others, a big learning curve. It’s also been a big step up.

As the winner of an early season classic, the Tour of the Med, I asked Jon how that race compared to something like Paris-Nice which again, is early season and a classic French stage race. “Massive” was the reply.

“I realised the first day how big the difference was when I went back for bottles. The break had gone early and the race controlled before it got faster and faster until I went back for some more bottles and it took me about 30k to get to the front with them because the lanes were blocked by riders.”

“Everyone is trying to move up and riders have their radios (not used in Jon’s races in 2012) with directors screaming at them to get to the front and to stay out of trouble because there are crashes at the back. But that makes people crash more and the race is just so much more nervous”.

[pullquote]“Everyone is trying to move up and riders have their radios (not used in Jon’s races in 2012) with directors screaming at them to get to the front and to stay out of trouble because there are crashes at the back. But that makes people crash more and the race is just so much more nervous”.[/pullquote]

“The speed was higher too. In the Tour of the Med, if I wanted to get to the front, I’d have a teammate take me round the outside and we’d be at the front a minute or so later. I am not saying races like the Tour of the Med and so on are easy. They are still hard to win and I’m very proud of winning them but in the WorldTour, there is a lot more at stake and they are certainly more competitive.”


Another stage race in 2012, another yellow jersey!

Sadly, with the Tour of Britain less than a month away now, Jon will not be part of Team Sky in the race even though the Devon stage finishes only 10 miles from where he lives. “The Tour of Britain was never in my programme” Jon admits. “When we sat down to look my race schedule, the plan was for me to ride the Vuelta but when we got to Midsummer, I said ‘I’m cooked’ and I knew you had to be going into that race in the form of your life; not in a state with no morale knowing it’s going to be difficult to get round.”

Jon instead expects to be racing in Germany ( Vattenfall) which he says should be a good place for him to return to racing. “It’s not a brutal route” he explains, “a hard race but one that should be a good place for me to find my legs again.” There may also be other races such as ones in Canada, Beijing, Japan and maybe the Worlds.

Jon is looking forward to racing after a bit of a nightmare year in some respects. Asked for a highlight and Jon recalls Paris-Nice again which was a long time ago. “For me, what was special was it was the first time in a WorldTour race and I was riding for Richie Porte who we knew was going well.”

“Unfortunately I got ill and had to pull out on the last day but having ridden for him all week and then seeing him top it off in the time trial was pretty special”.


Over training
The year for Jon has been a mix of learning more about being a bike rider and adjusting to a different training routine which did not pay off. In previous years, he’s had to learn how to win bike races and as he showed in 2012, he can do that bloody well but in 2013 came a new role; domestique.

“Serving others is something I haven’t had to do much of in the past so in that respect, I have learnt a lot” says Jon. “Thinking all the time about how I can be saving my team leader energy as well as saving my energy so I can do my job better and later into the race.”

“It’s about learning to be a better bike racer rather than just thinking how to win the race”.

But to do that role, has meant adjusting the training and that is where the problems have occurred; the cyclists enemy in over training and leaving everything on the road before the races. “The over training had been a long time thing. I was doing similar volume to what I have always done, and I have always done a fair amount, but there was so much intensity and in a new way as well.”

“I was getting more and more fatigued. I was used to going into races fresh and riding well off the confidence that you are feeling good and once that is gone, you start to lose your self-esteem as a bike rider.”

“Whilst I have learnt a lot this year, physically I haven’t improved as I expected. Every year for the past few years, I have got a bit better each one, got my weight to a good place, got my training right by tweaking a few things here and there and being more professional in a lot of ways.”

“Physically though this year, I haven’t improved and more likely taken a step backwards just from being tired and training in a different way. At the start of the year with the coach, we were looking at improving this area and that area but I ended up losing what I was good at, that punchy ability, whilst trying to focus on something I ‘m not very good at like my non-climbing etc.”

“I wound up tired so we’ve taken a different approach now and I’m training more like a classics rider I guess. All I can hope to do is to work hard this winter and make amends next year. I have had three weeks off and in the last week have started to feel decent on the bike again.”

After a year in Bristol, Jon is back in Devon where he says the terrain is perfect for the type of rider he is. “I have spent time in Girona and Monaco but for me it’s important to be training over this type of terrain and having that life balance and not feeling like life is one big training camp.”

The World Tour World
In 2012, Jon rode for a UCI Conti team (Endura Racing) and made the leap from there to WorldTour which he says is a very different world. “That was a positive thing” he explains. “The way we get looked after and some of the stresses you may get on a smaller team like logistics and stuff are taken care of and in that respect it is good.”

“You are in contact with someone the whole time. Last year, like I guess everyone in the team, we were left to our own devices and all we had to do was turn up to the race. But here at Team Sky, you have people trying to make sure everything is in order and every aspect of your preparation is optimised; from your nutrition to your coaching to your physio. It is unbelievable support.”

In 2012, winning was something Jon did a lot of that as his bio from Wikipedia shows:

1st Overall Tour Alsace (1st Stages 2 & 4, 1st Points classification, 1st Mountains classification)
1st Overall Tour Méditerranéen (1st Stages 1 & 4, 1st Points classification)
1st Overall Tour du Haut Var (1st Stage 2, 1st Points classification)
1st Overall Tour of Britain
2nd Overall Vuelta a Murcia
3rd Overall UCI Europe Tour

2013 though in the WorldTour World was more about helping out teammates; riders who were winning some of the biggest bike races in the world. “It was what I expected” says Jon. “I have been given a couple of opportunities to ride for myself but at that time, I wasn’t on form”.

Jon denies it’s a comedown to be a domestique explaining that in WorldTour, there are plenty of other big names doing the same thing. “My role varies. In the classics which are super hard one day races, at the start, you’re covering the breaks making sure the team are happy.”

“That’s hard when you’re doing your maximum five minute power efforts going after these moves and then making sure certain combinations going up the road are brought back before you then spend the rest of the day doing other things like if someone punctures, you swap wheels with them or you pace them back or you’re getting bottles, or toing and froing with jackets and stuff”.

“You get 200k into the race and you are spent physically and when the fireworks kick off, with 50 k to go, it’s game over for you because your race has been at the service of others.”

Weight Issues
The weight of riders is a topic in the news lately based around a teammate of Jons, a certain Sir Bradley Wiggins. So the final topic of conversation was around whether Jon is lighter now as a rider?

The answer is no. Jon admits with a heavy race programme, he finds himself putting on weight, not losing it because of the need for all the recovery products a rider has post-race. “Nigel at team Sky helped me manage that and get down to my race weight again” Jon explained. “I find when I have a lighter race programme, I can do the races, come home and concentrate on my diet. I have to get used to that balance of living on the road a lot more though”.

Jon also admits that the weight he aims for depends on what he is trying to achieve race wise.” You can lose weight but you can also lose power unless you do it in the right way” he says. Jon then adds that he has been lighter (62kg) than he is now (65ish) and climbed better but not been as good in other areas.

“This year I have had to play a support role quite a bit, covering attacks at the start or ‘riding’ on the flat for my team leader and me at my lightest weight, maybe I’m not as good at that job as I need to be so I am trying to find that balance as well.”

So 2013 has very much been a learning curve for the Team Sky rider who admits that with his season extending all the way to November almost, there won’t be much of an offseason but adds that he feels he’s had that during the summer and he’s looking forward to an early start in 2014 and making the impact that many, including himself, expected he’d make in 2013.

Thanks to Jon for his time and good luck to him for the rest of the season




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