Jon Tiernan-Locke of Endura Racing has won his second successive stage race in France, winning this weekend’s Tour du Haut Var as well as the second and final stage to cap another memorable week for British cycling. While the country’s track cyclists were topping the medal table at the UCI Track World Cup Classics in London, elsewhere Bradley Wiggins won the closing time trial in the Volta ao Algarve, with Team Sky colleague Richie Porte of Australia winning the overall. It wasn’t all good news, however – in the same race, former Team Sky rider Steve Cummings, now with BMC Racing, broke his pelvis.
Tiernan-Locke’s win comes just a week after he had jumped to international prominence by winning the Tour Méditerranéen, and came in a race that boasted a star-studded field including BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert, Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler and Simon Gerrans of GreenEdge.
All three of those riders had figured towards the front of the race on yesterday’s 205-kilometre stage from Frejus to Freyence as it entered its closing stages, but Tiernan-Locke had managed to break away with three other riders, one of whom, Julian Simon of Saur-Sojasun, attacked and opened up a big gap inside the final kilometre.
As the road rose up towards the finish, however, Tiernan Locke reeled Simon in and passed him on the steep final approach to the line, beating Julien El Fares of Team Type 1 to both the stage win and the overall victory.
Afterwards, the 27-year-old from Devon, who had finished third on Saturday’s Stage 1, said: It's perfectly suited to me round here, punchy climbs that sap legs.
“I could actually enjoy it today because at the Tour Méditerranéen I felt a lot of pressure, but here I was confident coming into the race that I could actually win this and I could relax a bit.
“To be honest I'm quite glad I didn't win yesterday even though I thought it might be my only chance.
“I knew yesterday I could probably win this, I struggled on the fast bits but when it became a slogfest I knew I would be strong, plus of course I knew I would have some strong team mates up with me looking after me. They did a great job.
“I'm so happy that my form has come good this early,” he concluded.
Directeur Sportif Julian Winn adeed: “ Just an unbelievable ride from JTL & the boys today. We were a man down to start, and then Alex [Blaine] was ill early on so we were down to six. The five that were with Jon, really stepped up today and I think they did a tremendous job.
“I am really speechless with regards to Jon, that was incredible, he's just put himself into a completely different league. The team should all be proud of what they did, Rob Partridge and Ian Bibby did some awesome riding for him closing the gaps, it's just amazing, been an incredible start to the season - JTL has now established himself as a major player and put Endura Racing firmly on the map.”
Meanwhile, Team Sky sports director Sean Yates hailed a memorable day for the British ProTeam Wiggins’ victory in the time trial and Porte’s overall victory in the Volta ao Algarve.
"You couldn’t have asked for more to be honest,” he said. “We’ve dominated the race. The boys rode fantastic and it is a massive display from the team. It is only early in the season but we've beaten some really strong riders here.
“The plan coming into the race was to build on our form. But our form was so good here anyway with the quality athletes we have here we thought we might as well go for the win!
"We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground but the boys rode relaxed, in control, communicated and dominated. End of story."
Yates continued: “Obviously it’s great for Richie to pull off the GC. Bradley did a great ride today. He’s building his form for goals later on. We have Paris-Nice coming up so it’s fantastic for his confidence, especially beating Tony Martin. All in all they couldn’t have ridden any better - I’m really proud of the guys. This is not an easy race. The team have definitely laid down the law and got the respect."
Former Team Sky man Cummings' broken pelvis happened on Stage 3 on Friday when he was brought down by another rider on a turn on a descent.
“We were going down a little hill and this guy came from under me and hooked my handlebars," said the 30-year-old, quoted on his BMC Racing team’s website.
"I didn't even see it coming. You know what they say: what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger."
According to the team’s Dr. Giovanni Ruffini, it will be at least a month until Cummings can race again. "Consulting with the other team doctors, we think he'll have to be off his bike completely at least two weeks," he explained.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.