With his biological passport-related ban coming to a close at the end of this year, Jonathan Tiernan Locke is keen to renew his involvement in the cycling world, though he has told Cyclingnews it will be in a wider-reaching capacity than just as a racer.
The British rider has been working towards establishing a cycling-related business, which is set to go hand in hand with a return to racing – not as part of a team, but as a lone rider on the UK domestic scene. He claims he received offers from Continental-level teams for next year but the chance to return to a higher level hasn't materialised, prompting his decision to go solo and get the business off the ground.
"It's something that I've been working on with a business partner which hasn't launched yet," Tiernan Locke told Cyclingnews, remaining tight-lipped about the exact nature of the business.
"I just thought I've got to take the initiative – I can be quite entrepreneurial. The business side is something I've been working on for ages so it makes sense to combine the two.
"I'll just be racing in the UK but doing more than racing in terms of my involvement with cycling. It'll be something where my racing adds more gravitas. I knew I could put some sponsors together myself, ride the UK events, and use that as a vehicle to promote what we're doing."
Tiernan Locke was banned for two years at the end of 2013 after anomalies were detected in his biological passport from 2012, before he made the move from Endura Racing to Team Sky. It is something he has always contested, arguing that the values were caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
The 30-year-old has been working with a property business during his time away from cycling but with his ban soon to end, in recent months his attentions have naturally returned to the bike. He hasn't made any real effort to put himself about but he has had contact with teams, though he hasn't been convinced by what a Continental-level squad could offer him.
"I was approached. I don't know how my number found its way to various people," he said. "There were a couple of conversations, but they were talking like minimum wage and I just thought ‘I can't do that'. I've got other stuff going on now, other interests, and for me to commit to a lower level Conti team and be expected to be riding all the races, there's a lot more I can do with my time racing for myself."
It was suggested in the local press near Tiernan Locke's home in south-west England that ONE Pro Cycling, who are set to step up to Professional Continental level next year, were interested in signing him but they announced they have had no contact with Tiernan Locke – something the rider himself echoes.
"I don't know where that's come from. I haven't spoken to them. I'd like to set the record straight and say I've not spoken to ONE Pro. I'm friends with some guys in that team but I've not spoken with anyone at any time about joining that team."
Picking up where I left off
Tiernan Locke described how he'll be sending his entry forms off to race organisers on the UK domestic scene in the coming months, hoping they won't get rejected. He couldn't help but notice his fall from grace.
"The last time I raced a bike was at the WorldTour Grand Prix races in Montreal and Quebec over two years ago. Now it'll be a UK race hoping the organiser lets me in," he said.
That said, Tiernan Locke believes he can return to the level he was at when he received his ban, when he won the Tour of Britain and earned a promotion to WorldTour level with Team Sky. The offers from the Professional Continental teams that he was holding out for have not been forthcoming this year but he hopes that if he can smoothly and successfully embed himself back into the racing scene and so be in a stronger negotiating position this time next year.
Much will depend on how he slots back in, and how his business plans progress in its early days, but Tiernan Locke, at 30, feels he has plenty still to give.
"Next year it'll be baby steps in the business side of things, so I'm going to see how I go in UK racing. I've been training for the last few months and as I've got fitter and better the ambition is growing," he told Cyclingnews.
"If next year goes well, and me being back racing is normalised, if you like, maybe people will be more willing to sign me, then we'll see. I'm 30 – if I want there's definitely more years in me, there are not many miles on the clock anyway."
"If things go well then I'd like to pick up where I left off but that remains to be seen."