SOUTH DEVON'S Tour of Britain winner Jon Tiernan-Locke is already looking beyond a disappointing first World Tour season with Team Sky towards a 2014 campaign which he hopes will allow him to show why he was British cycling's hottest property last winter.
The former Mid-Devon CC star bypassed a planned Grand Tour debut in Spain's current La Vuelta, and confirmed he won't be defending his Tour of Britain title later this month.
Locke, 28, admits that a combination of new training schedules with Sky and his duties as a 'domestique' support rider left him drained of strength.
"For whatever reason, mainly down to the training I undertook and not recovering enough after races, I arrived at mid-summer cooked," said the talented climber.
"Physically this year, I haven't improved and more likely taken a step backwards.
"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 non-climbing etc.
"All through the year I'd had this goal in mind of reaching mid-summer in great form and going for the Vuelta.
"But three weeks racing the bike is not something to be taken lightly. At any level it's difficult, but at World Tour 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."
Locke, who won the Tour Mediterranean, Tour Haut-Var, Tour d'Alsace, the ToB and rode brilliantly in the World Championships in a stellar 2012, has only just returned to racing after taking a break from competition at his family home near Plymouth.
"I'd come completely off the bike to get over the fatigue and reset myself," said Locke, who is moving back to Devon from his previous base in Bristol.
"It (Tour of Britain) was never in the programme.
"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."
Locke, who has another year of his Sky contract to run, added: "There's been a lot to learn.
"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.
"Last year I was quite fortunate a lot of the time to have people take me to the front.
"Positioning was my weakness, but I'd have teammates to look after me in that respect.
"I'd often think 'Wow, these guys are strong, probably stronger than I am'.
"You still have to have the legs to finish it off, but now I'm in that supporting role, it has made me appreciate all the times people have worked for me."
Locke returned to competition last weekend, in the Vattenfall Classic around Hamburg, where he again rode in support of senior Sky riders.
He finished nearly seven minutes down on home winner John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), his chance ruined by a puncture 15K from the line.
But Locke still hopes to have an upbeat finish to the season.
He has race targets in Japan, possibly the World Road Race Championships over a climber's course at Florence, Italy, at the end of this month and China in October.
"Mentally, I'm pretty good at picking myself up morale-wise. I think you have to have that ability as a cyclist, as you do get a lot of disappointment," he said.
"Having this break, I'm starting to feel decent on the bike again."