Thursday, May 26, 2022
HomeInterviewsJonathan Tiernan-Locke - "Ifs and Buts Don't Win Races"

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke – “Ifs and Buts Don’t Win Races”


It’s no surprise that Endura Racing’s ‘man of the year’ Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has today signed for Team Sky. Anyone who thought that Englishman’s top six GC placing and King of the Mountains win back in the 2011 Tour of Britain was a freak result had their eyes opened this spring when the 27 year-old from Plymouth won the first stage, fourth stage and GC in this season’s Tour of the Mediterranean – a race dating back to 1974 and which boasts Eddy Merckx as one of its winners.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
We may see Jonathan Tiernan-Lock in a grand tour next year.

The latest step in the man from Plymouth’s meteoric rise through the professional rankings – in the August UCI European rankings he was in third spot behind Slovenian Marko Kump and Danilo Di Luca of Italy – continued with an excellent top 20 placing in a tough world road race championship around the Valkenburg circuit a couple of weeks ago.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
Jonathan rode a superb race at the Worlds.

Tiernan-Locke’s pro debut came with UK team Plowman Craven in 2009 with some strong UK results indicating that he was on the way back after a debilitating bout of Epstein Barr Virus which compromised his amateur career.

For 2010 he was with another UK team, Rapha Condor Sharp, winning a stage in Ireland’s Rás and taking tenth overall in the tough Mi Aout Bretonne stage race in France.

His second year with Rapha provided his breakthrough results – there was sixth place in the Tour of South Africa, fourth place in the Tour of Korea and a stage win and second on GC in the Vuelta Ciclista a Leon.

But it was his Tour of Britain results which had jaws dropping; top six on GC – in a field which contained many Pro Tour big guns – and victory in the King of the Mountains competition.

Transferring to Scottish Continental team Endura for 2012 the start to his season could hardly have been better with his Tour of the Mediterranean showing blowing away the other riders.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
Jonathan takes the fourth stage of the Tour of the Med in glorious solitude.

Within weeks there was cause to talk about the man from Devon once again, the subject being his fourth and fifth wins of the season – the second stage and the GC in the tough Tour Cycliste International Haut Var.

A broken collar bone and three broken ribs sustained in a crash during England’s Lincoln Grand Prix in May compromised his summer.

But he was back to form by the end of July, taking victory in two stages of the 2.2-ranked Tour de Alsace and winning on GC.

His fourth UCI stage race win of the season fell to him shortly before the world championships in the Tour of Britain – the race where he first burst onto the scene, last season.

In just over a year, the Englishman went from being ‘unknown’ to leading the GB team at the Limburg Worlds, with riders like Steve Cummings and Ian Stannard at his disposal – a remarkable rise.

If his progression continues, the height of the bar may yet be set very high for the climber whose name is being linked with Team Sky for 2013.

He took time to speak to VeloVeritas the day after his ride in the elite race where he finished an excellent 19th in his first race at this level and distance.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
Jonathan can win alone uphill, or on the flat from a large bunch, as here, taking Stage 1 of this year’s Tour of the Mediterranean. Photo©CyclingWeekly

Your season has had three distinct peaks – the early Med/Haut Var weeks; Alsace then the Tour of Britain/Worlds.

“That was just the way it worked out; the Route du Sud took place during time I was out of action with the broken bones – that was a big goal for me and disappointing to miss.

“I worked hard to get back to fitness for Alsace and then confirmed that in the Tour of Britain.”

Was the Tour of Britain the main goal of your season?

“Not really, early season I didn’t really think about it; I didn’t know what was involved in it and what I’d need to do to prepare for it.

“I started to think about it after Alsace and we went to see a few of the stages.”

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
Jonathan used the TOB last year as a shop window, but this year was already on Team Sky’s radar.

With the TOB being where you burst on to the scene, is it special for you?

“It was a nice shop window for me, last year.

“It was my intention to win it this season – but there’s a big difference between intending to win a race and actually winning it.”

The TOB field was perhaps more balance and therefore competitive, this year?

“For sure; Garmin were strong and were days when it was controlled, but our strategy was to keep it hard so that the sprinters didn’t take all the bonus seconds.

“My plan on stage six to Caerphilly was simply to take time.

“It would have been nice to win the stage but the NetApp rider (Leopold Koenig) who was away with me wouldn’t collaborate.

“If I hadn’t been riding for time and the GC I’d have gambled a bit with him but I wanted the jersey.

“It would have been nice to get the stage, too – I always think it’s good to win a stage on the way to a GC win because it shows you can win on the road, not just on time.”

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
Team Sky will be hoping they see more of this podium action from ‘JTL’ next season. Photo©TeamSky.

When did you get the Worlds call?

“On the Friday, during the Tour of Britain.

“It was enough time; I’d have done the same preparation as I did for the Tour of Britain even if I’d known earlier.

“I had a week to recover but knew on the start line on Sunday that I didn’t have fresh legs.

“I lacked that feeling of freshness that you have when you’re good.”

What was the GB game plan?

“We only discussed that at 9:00 pm the night before the race.

“It wasn’t like Copenhagen where Cav’s win was discussed and planned for two years before.

“Cav and Alex Dowsett would cover the early moves; Steve Cummings was to go with any moves and Ian Stannard – who was very strong – was to keep me up front.”

I believe that Sunday was your first race over 200 kilometres?

“I’ve done a few at 200 or 206 but Sunday was 60 kilometres longer – that’s an hour-and-a-half.

“But it’s not just the duration, the pace is there all the time and it creeps up on you.

“The first 100 kilometres to the circuit was technical with lots of road furniture and corners; if you’re not up front you have to brake then accelerate back up to speed.”

Bradley Wiggins and Cav were out early.

“They just wanted to show themselves in the race, as Cav said, as a sign of respect.

“It’s been a long season for both of them and they must be tired.”

The course was deceptive.

“It was hard to make anything stick, not just because it was fast after the Cauberg but because of the level of guys you’re racing against.

“You’ve even got sprinters like Degenkolb who are there at the end.”

And you’d never ridden the Cauberg until the first time up in the race?

“The Espoirs race was on when we arrived so my first ascent was in the race.

“We dropped down a big descent, turned left and I thought, ‘Ah, this must be the Cauberg!’

“It was fast, there were guys pulling faces, I was hurting and thinking; ‘what’s the eleventh time going to be like?’”

You bridged up to the front group.

“I made two efforts that I shouldn’t have – Gilbert was always thereabouts but didn’t make any unnecessary efforts – on the second to last lap I went with Nibali, Valverde and Voeckler on the second to last time on the Cauberg, but didn’t have to.

“And I was in a move with Gesink, Contador, Flecha and Castroviejo.

“Gilbert kept his powder dry; the first 100 K was a wearing down and the 170 K on the circuit went past really fast but it was a wearing down process – I think there was only one spell of about ten minutes during the entire race where it wasn’t fast.”

Tell us about the finale.

“It was a bit of an anti climax for me – Ian Stannard got me into a good position right at the front on the approach to the Cauberg.

“I didn’t want to be right at the front, so I let six or seven past.

“Nibali went first but when I went to make a maximum effort it just wasn’t there – I shouldn’t have made those two earlier efforts.

“Over the top it was in threes and fours then it came together a bit for the sprint but there were guys leaning on each other and I got boxed in.

“I’m happy; I made the top 20, didn’t let the team down and think that a top ten was within my capabilities.

“But ‘ifs and buts’ don’t win races.”

I noticed a few weeks ago you weren’t on the NetApp-Endura roster for 2013…

“No. Now we know why!”

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days for some of the world's top riders. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Ben Swift – Milan-Sanremo Runner-up; “I can’t think what else I could have done”

Team Sky’s Ben Swift seems to have been with us a long time but the fact is he’s that he’s still only 28 years old, just coming into his prime as a rider. And if any of us thought his third place in the 2014 Milan-Sanremo was a fluke we had that notion debunked when the man from Rotherham stepped up one place on the podium to second spot behind controversial winner, Arnaud Démare (F des J & France) in this year’s race – Démare having been accused of taken pace from his team car on the Cipressa climb whilst coming back from a crash.

Star of the Future: Ross Creber – Looking forward to Murcia

Two years ago, Ross Creber was a mountain biker, last year he won the Scottish road race championship. And this year he's part of Endura Racing's continental adventure; he rode the savage Tour of the Mediterranean, sat out Haut Var but will back behind the oars, ankle chains and all, for the Tour of Murcia.

Jim McFarlane, Endura MD – “It’s about Cycling, and only Cycling”

He started making shorts on the kitchen table, his suppliers used to manufacture his products inside out; but he's just recruited double world champion, 'Big Bob' Hayles to ride for and manage his UCI Continental team - things have come a long way for Jim McFarlane!

Guy Smet; Big Scores in Belgium

The score may have been Dunfermline 1 Queen of the South 2 at East End Park, the other night, but in Flanders just now it's Guy 24, Mario 22.

KASK present the fastest ever road helmet

KASK have today unveiled their most aerodynamic road helmet, which be available to buy later this year. The KASK Utopia offers the very latest technology in aerodynamics and ventilation, giving cyclists a super-fast ride while retaining excellent safety and cooling capabilities.

Joe Dombrowski – “Biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2013? Perspective”

It was 2011 when we first spoke to American Joe Dombrowski; we interviewed him at his Copenhagen hotel in the run up to the U23 Worlds. That year he’d finished second in the Baby Giro, an excellent performance, but he came back in 2012 and went one better, beating Fabio Aru – now one of Vincenzo Nibali’s lieutenants – to take victory. Sky know a good thing when they see one and snapped the skinny man from Virginia up – here’s what Joe had to say to VeloVeritas about his first season in the World Tour.

At Random

Reflections on the 2011 Track World Champs – Part I, the American Sprinters

The Track World Champs came and went, and whilst criticising the UCI is the fashion their decision to slot the Worlds into the Cobbled Classics season has to be questioned. The original thought process was that it was to accommodate the six day riders coming off the end of their season-and road men before their season got underway.

Scottish Road Race Championships 2018

Mark Robertson (Army CU) who successfully defended his 2017 title, confirming that he’s ‘not just a sprinter’ and giving lie to suggestions that his win last season was a ‘fluke.’ VeloVeritas hasn’t been to the Scottish Road Race Championship for a year or two but when we heard it was in Cromarty, one of favourite places on the globe there could be no excuse for absence.

Berlin Six Day 2012 – John Young’s Photo Album

The Berlin Six Day finished with a win for the Aussie World Champions Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard (wine gum thief), we hope you enjoyed our daily diaries from the inside.

Graeme Obree & Jason MacIntyre – discuss the 25 Champs postponement

It was to be the big one, the Scottish 25 Mile Time Trial Championship this Saturday, June 17th at Irvine. The British 25 Mile TT Champion, Jason MacIntyre versus the man who ran him to within 13 seconds in the Scottish 10 Mile TT Championship the previous week-former double World Pursuit Champion and World Hour Record holder, Graeme Obree (Fullarton Wheelers).

Bad Day Of Racing – Johnny Hoogerland forced into barbed wire fence!

Ouch. What a tough day in the saddle for the boys, particularly Johnny Hoogerland. Everything was under control, with the break only a couple of minutes out in front, Thor getting over the climbs comfortably, and plenty of time to reel the break back in when BOOM! Zabriskie hit the deck, a couple of big hitters also went down from other teams (Kloden, Vino and VDB in particular) and there is a decision made to wait for everyone affected in the crash to catch back up.

Jon Sharples – the man behind Trainsharp’s “Perfect Bank of Knowledge”

Coaches, everyone has one these days and a name which keeps cropping up when we interview riders is that of Jon Sharples and his ‘TrainSharp Cycle Coaching’ company. In time honoured VeloVeritas fashion we ‘had a word.’