In the space of 12 months Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has gone from winning the mountains classification at the 2011 Tour of Britain to be selected as team leader for the World Road Race Championships and ultimately taken a place on the roster for the best cycling team in the world. His season palmares have consistently done the talking, but it's easy to forget his achievments came whilst riding for a 'Continental' team, two rungs down the ladder from the WorldTour team he has just signed with and Endura Racing have played a huge part in his rise to fame both with exceptional support in what has been a great year for the team as a whole.
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
Looking at the above and it's easy to see why WorldTour teams would be interested in Tiernan-Locke - they have however been interested before and were put of due to his age. It is relatively rare for a rider to hit the WorldTour heights at what is considered in cycling terms as, well, not exactly a spring chicken but his determination this year to prove his worth has paid off and he now finds himself not only on a WorldTour team but the best WorldTour team there is.
Today Tiernan-Locke said: "It’s an incredible opportunity for me to step up from the UCI Continental ranks, and although I’ve really enjoyed my time at Endura, I couldn’t pass up the chance to join the world’s best team, when you look at the season Team Sky have had, to even be considered by them was a massive honour for me, so I’m over the moon to be riding for them in 2013"
David Brailsford was equally as thrilled: “At Team Sky we are determined that the best British talent have the opportunities to compete at the highest level of our sport. We have monitored Jonathan’s progress closely and are delighted to offer him this contract. He has worked hard to get himself to where he is today and deserves his chance to compete against the very best cyclists in the world. Next season will be a great opportunity for him. We believe he is in the best place to achieve his full potential and are looking forward to having him on the team."
So what does lie in store for Jonathan in 2013? Turning down a ride in the WorldTour would have been a stupid move but it would be silly to think Locke will get an easy ride next year. There is already a power struggle at the top in the form of Wiggins and Froome and below them a whole host of riders form a pecking order above the new man on the team. The grand tours will be covered even if the first choice riders can't make it for whatever reason, Sky have strong back-up for the General classification in the form of riders like Uran and Richie Porte - in reality Tiernan-Locke has proven himself at Continental Level and beaten Pro-Continental and WorldTour riders, but he is an unknown entity when it comes to racin in the WorldTour week in week out, and a three week Grand Tour is a world away from what he is used to. It will take a lot of off season work and training to get him upto Sky standards and much of his season will be spent playing dogsbody and domestique to those above him. This, however, is reality and at 28 Tiernan-Locke will be grateful to be anybodies dogsbody at WorldTour level - there are plenty of riders who have been riding at the top-level for many years as a domestique and that's as far as their career will go, just look at riders like Paulo Tiralongo. There is a little ray of light for Tiernan-Locke though...
Being picked as British Team leader for the World Championships shows that there is faith in his ability - after all he had never even raced this distance before and in the end he showed well. Brailsford was his boss then and he will be his boss next year, so that's a good start. He repaid that faith and this means there will be some opportunities for him. The Ardennes classics are very similar in nature to the Worlds Road Race this year. Long, undulating, hilly they suit riders with a punchy, esplosive turn of pace and good climbing legs. In essence, they suit Tiernan-Locke and they suit him possibly better than any other rider on Sky's roster. Going the distance in the Worlds on the Cauberg matching riders like Alberto Contador puts Tiernan-Locke right in the running for a possible Classics victory next spring - not a bad start for a WorldTour neo-pro and any British addition to the WorldTour is a positive one!
Expect to see Jonathan Tiernan-Locke being put through his paces next year. He is likely to ride alot of miles and most of those will be in service of others. If he can do this with success then 2014 could be a massive year for Tiernan-Locke and the world could be his oyster, a Grand Tour leadership in the Vuelta might not be getting ahead of ourselves. He knows 2013 will be tough, he will also be well aware of his 'supporting' role on the team but this IS the cream of the crop, this IS the WorldTour and if he plays his cards right, as a betting man, he might just be worth a fiver for Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Amstel Gold...