Tiernan-Locke focused on the future
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke sets his late-season goals after a challenging first summer in the WorldTour.
Last Updated: 27/08/13 3:01pm
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is looking forward to focusing on his late-season goals after being forced to miss out on the Vuelta a Espana.
The Brit had been pencilled in to ride the third Grand Tour of the season which kicked off in Galicia on Saturday, yet fatigue following a tough start to the year meant that discretion proved the better part of valour.
A period off the bike during the mid-season ensured the 28 year old returned with a fresher outlook at the Vattenfall Cyclassics on Sunday, and now he is looking forward again having being forced to delay his Grand Tour debut.
“All through the year I’d had this goal in mind of reaching mid-summer in great form and going for the Vuelta,” he admitted when we sat down with him at his home in Bristol. “But for whatever reason, mainly down to the training I undertook and not recovering enough after races, I arrived at mid-summer cooked.
“Three weeks racing the bike is not something to be taken lightly. At any level it’s difficult, but at WorldTour level, especially so.
“You don’t want it to be a bitter memory of just surviving for three weeks. You need to be going well just to do your job and be useful to the team.
“Leading up to the race I’d come completely off the bike to get over the fatigue and reset myself. Obviously I’d lost some training but I feel pretty decent on the bike again now. Going into a Grand Tour, you want to be approaching it with the confidence you’re in the form of your life, not ‘I think I can get around’ - especially for a team like Sky.”
The route back to the form that saw him winning frequently in 2012 also means the man from Devon will miss the Tour of Britain – a race he won in impressive style 12 months ago.
“It was never in the programme,” he confirmed. “I don’t feel like I’m missing out as such as I was never down to do it. Obviously it’s a race that I love. I’ve done it three times now and each one of those I’ve really enjoyed – culminating in last year’s result. But I’m sure I’ll be back to do it again one day.”
Tiernan-Locke’s first season for Team Sky has been a huge learning experience, and the man himself admits it has taken time to adjust to life at the very pinnacle of the sport.
“There are things that I thought would be a bit different and things I’ve had to do differently this year,” he continued. “There’s been a lot to learn.
“It’s still bike racing at the end of the day, but my role has been different this year. You’ve got to be incredibly strong to be riding in a helper role. Sometimes stronger than if you are a designated leader for a race at times.
“As a domestique you’re expending energy all day, whereas if you’re fortunate enough to be the leader of a race – obviously you’ve got to have the legs to finish it off – but you get an easier ride throughout the day and you’ve just got to use your abilities at the end.
“When you’re told to go with the early moves and be helping throughout the day, that’s hard. It’s quite rewarding if you end up with a result, and that’s happened most times this year, but it’s still something I’ve had to learn to adapt to, and I’ve changed as a rider as a result.”
A year spent working in tough races like Paris-Nice, Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Tour de Suisse has given Tiernan-Locke an increased appreciation of domestique work, and what it takes to get the job done.
“Last year I was quite fortunate a lot of the time to have people take me up to the front. Positioning was my weakness but I’d have team-mates to look after me in that respect. I’d often think ‘Wow, these guys are strong, probably stronger than I am’. Maybe I could do a better job on a certain stage or at a specific moment – but now I’m in that supporting role, it has made me appreciate all the times people have worked for me.”
Tiernan-Locke habours hopes that his best results are still ahead of him in 2013 and his hunger is building again heading into the final races of the season.
“Mentally I’m pretty good at picking myself up morale-wise,” he explained. “I think you have to have that ability as a cyclist as you do get a lot of disappointment. You have to have a selective memory. But there’s only so many times you can turn up to races and you start to lose self-esteem when you’re not the rider that you should be.
“Having this break I’m starting to feel decent on the bike again. There may be a chance to ride a Grand Tour in the future but the season’s going on longer than I’ve ever done before with Beijing taking me into mid-October. That’s going to be a bit of a goal and I’ll see if I can get something there and have a strong back end of the year.”