Jonathan Tiernan-Locke scored the biggest victory of his career so far at this weekend's Tour Méditerranéen. He won the first and final stages as well as general classification. The leader of his British Endura Racing team finished off the French stage race by blasting away at the foot of the final climb, the Col de Gardes.
"To take this victory at the beginning of the season is definitely a morale boost for me and for the team. it makes people believe in what you can do," Tiernan-Locke told Cylingnews on Monday morning.
Racing alongside several WorldTour and Professional Continental teams, the 27-year-old and his Continental team could have been intimidated going into the final stage, but the British rider saw no reason not to ride at the front of the bunch, looking for the best possible position ahead of the last ascent.
"It was a real fight to the base of the climb, also because the route had changed. A lot of guys weren't sure of the difficulty of the final climb, so everybody wanted to be in front. It was almost like a lead-out for a sprint into the final climb! My whole team was fighting to keep me out of the wind and up front," he continued.
"As a small team, you have to fight hard for a placing in the peloton, and that was definitely the case yesterday. It's normal: Endura Racing is just a small team compared to the WorldTour teams."
With his victory, Tiernan-Locke felt that he had finally had the chance to make a name for himself. "Yes, I think so. I've only raced WorldTour teams three times in my life, twice in the Tour of Britain and now this. In Britain last year, I made the most of it [finishing fifth overall and taking the best climber's jersey - ed.] - if I had a bit more belief there I could have done more though. I've carried this thought through the winter and now it came out this week."
Tiernan-Locke looked forward to racing the well-known Mont Faron on the final stage, with a view to the overall victory. And even if the traditional Tour Med ending had to be cancelled because of snowfall, he maintained that the result may have been the same.
"I heard some comments from some big name riders that it would have been different on Mont Faron, but the thing is, if you had the legs you would have ridden away, and I did that on the Col de Gardes - and I would have done it on Mont Faron. I don't think it would have changed anything, really."
Tiernan-Locke will now continue to race in the South of France, targeting the Tour du Haut-Var on next week-end. "This race could suit me, too. I'll be watched a lot more but it looks like it's a race of natural selection. So hopefully I'll be there!"