Not many had heard of him beyond the tight-knit British cycling community, but two big wins in early season French races has Jonathan Tiernan-Locke gathering some much-warranted attention.
The 27-year-old climber kicked to victory in the second stage of the Tour du Haut Var on Sunday to also claim the overall title. That success comes on the heels of winning two stages and the overall at the Tour Mediterranean earlier this month in France.
That gives the Enduro Racing rider five wins, including two GC titles, all within the opening weeks of the 2012 season.
Tiernan-Locke first made a ripple in last year’s Tour of Britain. Riding for Rapha-Condor-Sharp, he won the best climber’s and finished fifth overall. He also won a stage and rode to second overall at the Vuelta a Leon in northern Spain. Those results caught the eye of Endura management, a team that is stepping up its program this year by adding more depth to the UK-registered squad. Also joining the team this year are Russ Downing, Zak Dempster, Dean Windsor and Jonny MacEvoy.
“We’re not going to make up the numbers, we want to win stages,” said team manager Brian Smith. “I know we’ll be fighting WorldTour teams in these races and it’s going to be very difficult, but we want to have success. It’s about spreading the wins throughout the team. I want to see every one of these 16 guys win a race this year.”
So far, it’s been the impressive climbing legs of Tiernan-Locke that have delivered the team its early season success. At the Med tour, he rode the right tactics in the weather-shortened climbing stage at Mont Faron to secure the overall. Milder weather this weekend in the Haut Var region was even better. In Sunday’s stage, he out-rode some elite company that included attacks by Julien Simon (Saur-Sojasun) on the final wall above Frejus, with ramps as steep as 20 percent.
Tiernan-Locke timed his attack perfectly and then picked his way up the final meters of the technical climb to hold off the chasing Julien El Fares (Team Type 1), while bigger teams were chasing from behind, including GreenEdge, FDJ, Astana and Garmin-Barracuda.
Successes such as these will surely garner the team more invitations to bigger races.