Devon’s cycling success story Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has been tipped to make his mark on the international stage by Mark Cavendish – the racer he could be poised to replace in Team Sky’s ranks.
Plymouth-born Tiernan-Locke and Cavendish shared podium duties when the Tour of Britain came to a conclusion on Sunday. The Isle of Man sprint specialist was the victor on the final stage in Surrey, while the 27-year-old Devonian came out on top of the general classification.
Tiernan-Locke, who has been tipped to move to Sky from Endura Racing, took over the lead in the Tour of Britain in Wales last Friday and clung on to top spot throughout Saturday’s penultimate stage in Devon as well as Sunday’s last stage to win the event for the first time.
Tiernan-Locke, Cavendish and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who had to withdraw from the Tour of Britain last Friday because of illness, are now preparing to represent their country in the Netherlands this weekend.
The trio of speed merchants form one third of Britain’s team for Sunday’s elite men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in the Dutch province of Limburg.
Cavendish, who will be seeking to defend the title he won in Copenhagen a year ago, is glad to have Tiernan-Locke alongside him.
“I’m looking forward to having him in the national team,” Cavendish said at the conclusion of the Tour of Britain. “The way he has been riding here this week, he’s an incredible talent.
“I think he’s moving up in the ranks to a Pro Tour team next year, and I think he’ll do quite well,” added Cavendish, who did not deny that the Tour of Britain might have been his last race in Team Sky colours. “It’s possible, I don’t know yet,” he told BBC Sport. “I’ll concentrate on the World Championships and then see.”
Neither did Tiernan-Locke deny that he might be on his way to Sky. “I don’t think it’s all finalised yet, but possibly,” he told Sky Sports News.
Tiernan-Locke does not yet know what job he will be asked to do this weekend. He may be cast in a supporting, rather than a lead, role, but he did not entirely rule out the possibility of being Britain’s spearhead for honours in Limburg.
He said: “Cavendish is the favourite, but we haven’t discussed the situation yet. There are no clearly defined roles, and it would be great if I was at the front.” Whatever his task, he knows it will be a daunting assignment.
“It’s so long and the quality of the field is so high, it’s a bit of an unknown for me,” he told roadcyclinguk.com. “I’ve done about 250km, but I think this is over 260km. It just gets faster and faster. It’s not a race where the top guys are on their knees by the end, and the fastest laps are the last couple or so.”
Tiernan-Locke also looked back on his past week’s work with pride – and with a great deal of gratitude for the backing of Devon’s cycling fans on the penultimate day of his Tour of Britain triumph.
“Everywhere we went through, the size of the crowds was fantastic,” he said. “I’d like to thank the people of Devon for all the support they gave me.
“It was amazing, the amount of people who turned out. It was a great day all round, because the weather was really good. I don’t think we could have had a more perfect day.”
As for how he feels now, he added: “I’m a little bit tired now, but I’m not as bad as I thought I would be, though. I’ve got the World Championships on Sunday, and then I’m going to have a bit of a break, just to recharge myself.”
Britain’s Chris Froome has withdrawn from tomorrow’s men’s elite time trial at the Road World Championships. The 27-year-old wants more time to recover ahead of Sunday’s road race. Alex Dowsett will now be Britain’s sole entrant tomorrow.
Cornwall-based Wendy Houvenaghel will represent Britain at the Road World Championships today. The Bodmin dentist will compete alongside Emma Pooley in the women’s elite time trial in Limburg.