Jonathan Tiernan-Locke admits that a place within a WorldTour team could be out of his reach but the banned rider has confirmed that he aims to compete in the sport once his doping ban ends in December of this year.
Tiernan-Locke was dismissed by Team Sky last year when the UCI announced that he had shown irregular biological passport values dating back to 2012. The values were before his time at Team Sky and he was handed a two-year suspension. He resolutely defended himself throughout the proceedings, stating that he had never doped, but with his ban ending this year the suspended athlete has already been approached by domestic teams in the United Kingdom.
“I love riding my bike and that hasn’t changed and that competitive edge has come back,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I’ve kept myself healthy and I’m quite fresh. I know what it takes to get myself into decent shape and without trying to sound derogatory to anyone’s methods, I know that in 2013 I was always tired and I felt terrible. I’m just confident that if I’m looking after myself and doing what I need to do to get in shape then I can get back to that good level.”
Fitness and a willingness to compete are just two of the initial and controllable hurdles Tiernan-Locke will face if he is to race again. He believes that he can return to the level he reached in 2012, when he won the Tour of Britain and secured a WorldTour contract – the same year in which the biological case was built against him.
The former Team Endura and Sky rider admits that a place in the WorldTour could be beyond him however, with no current teams from the higher echelons of the sport yet to make contact, a situation that Tiernan-Locke adds would be hard to envision given his current status as a banned rider.
“I want to come back to the UK scene, at least initially. I don’t think a WorldTour team would touch me at the moment, I’m not a dreamer and I also want cycling to be part of my life, and not all of it. I have more of a balanced existence now, and it’s been eye-opening. I don’t want to put those things down now. Purely from that point of view I’d like cycling to be the main thing but not the only thing,” he told Cyclingnews.
“There has been a bit of interest but it’s not something that I’ve been that pro-active over. I think a few people thought that I wasn’t going to come back and it wasn’t really in my mind-frame but I’m in the shop window now I guess.”
When asked if he felt that some domestic teams in the United Kingdom might have already ruled out a move for him, Tiernan-Locke added:“I wouldn’t know about that but I am sure that there are some that have. I’ve not spoken to those teams but there’s been some interest from some of the better UK teams who have contacted me and expressed an interest and that’s going back a few months. I know that there are some teams that would categorically rule me out."
As for a WorldTour team, Tiernan-Locke, said: “Never say never. This has taught me that you never know what’s around the corner. I’m not in the position that I thought that I would be in. I can’t see it myself but it’s not impossible.” However, MPCC rules, of which a large proportion of WorldTour teams abide by, state that teams should not sign riders who have been handed bans of six-months or longer.
While Tiernan-Locke plots a return to professional sport he must also deal with the stigma of being labelled as a former drug cheat.
“I don’t dwell on it too much. If you carry that around with you and if you always care what people think… but I’m not that sort of person and I wouldn’t be looking at coming back, perhaps, if I was.”
“There has been heaps of stuff written but if I’d widened my appeal, if I had a few hundred grand kicking around and all but at the end of the day people are already going to have made their minds up and if I haven’t cheated and come back, that’s great and if I have cheated then they should be happy because in their eyes I’ve served my time. Either way, it’s not an issue for me.”