Plymouth's Jon Tiernan-Locke excited by 'massive Sky challenge'
JON TIERNAN-LOCKE is hopeful his remarkably successful 2012 will be the springboard for future triumphs.
Plymouth's Tiernan-Locke is fast emerging as the new face of British cycling – a tag pretty much confirmed by his signing for powerhouse outfit Team Sky.
Although his move had been one of cycling's least best-kept secrets, Tiernan-Locke told Herald Sport his phone had been 'ringing off the hook' and that 2012 had been a 'whirlwind'.
He said 'I am over the moon' at securing the switch to Sky, which he feels will help him 'move up to the next level' and provide 'job security over the next two seasons'.
He is not alone in thinking that, as sharp observers of the sport are tipping Tiernan-Locke to rise higher still after joining the outfit he calls 'the best team in the world'.
Tiernan-Locke concedes that clinching a two-year deal with Team Sky – Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish et al – is a 'big step up' for him in terms of expectation and exposure.
But given how far the former Endura rider has come since the start of the year, he and Team Sky are clearly of the same opinion, that he has the ability and ambition to make the jump.
The 27-year-old has netted nine victories this year, which have included the Tour de Mediterranean and a triumph at the Tour du Haut Var, which propelled Tiernan-Locke to the top of the UCI European Tour standings.
The stand-out victory and the one which probably persuaded Sky to lure him from Endura was Tiernan-Locke's success in September's Tour of Britain.
His triumph was watched by thousands of well-wishers throughout the UK, and none more vociferous in their support than in the Devon leg of the eight-stage Tour.
Tiernan-Locke's local roots go deep as the former Coombe Dean student says he is never happier or content than riding across Dartmoor.
Tiernan-Locke's horizons over the next two seasons will be a good deal loftier, having already won a call-up to the Great Britain squad for last month's World Road Championships in the Netherlands.
Tiernan-Locke will bring to the Sky party the reputation of being a specialist climber which his new employers will be keen to exploit in pulling Tour de France winner Wiggins up the mountains in 2013 and 2014.
The challenge cannot come too soon for the proud Plymothian.
"To say I'm over the moon at joining Team Sky is a massive understatement. Who wouldn't be? They are the world's best team," said Tiernan-Locke.
"I had a great time with Endura but Sky is at another level altogether and a major step up, no question.
"Just look at the riders they already have – real British legends like Brad (Wiggins), Cav (Mark Cavendish), and Chris Froome – I feel honoured to be counted as a team-mate.
"Sky is a fantastic set-up and with Dave Brailsford in charge, they have an incredibly successful management team.
"It's a massive move and challenge, but I am thrilled to be given the opportunity of riding for them."
Competing for Team Sky is a far cry from Tiernan-Locke's relatively humble beginnings as a rider, having started out with the local Mid-Devon club, while also being beset with bad luck, illness and injury.
He had three years out of the game in his late teens through illness and at one stage was working in a bike shop to make ends meet.
Now he's in with the elite and with the very real possibility of a big race win within his compass in 2013.
Added to which, Tiernan-Locke's annus mirabilis has put him on the grid for a shout at winning The Herald Sports Personality of the Year 2012.
He faces stiff opposition as Olympic heroes Tom Daley, Tonia Couch, Sarah Barrow and the mercurial Ruta Meilutyte are also expected to be finalists at The Herald's gala sports dinner at the Pavilions on December 3.
Tiernan-Locke said, if invited, he is looking forward to attending the event which would mark his debut, indicating his rise over the past 18 months.
"I'd love to come. I've never been to The Herald Sports awards before. It sounds great," said Tiernan-Locke, who added he would keep the first Monday in December free.