Great Britain will line up in Maastricht on Sunday ready to support the hopes of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke in the men’s road race, national coach Rod Ellingworth has confirmed.
The 27 year-old from Devon recently won the Tour of Britain for Endura Racing thanks to his strong and punchy climbing which saw him take over the race lead on the double ascent of Caerphilly Mountain.
“We’ll be going for Tiernan-Locke I think mainly,” revealed Ellingworth, “with Steve [Cummings] trying to maybe set things up for him. That’s the sort of thing we’re going to look at.”
Tiernan-Locke is all but certain to step up to the WorldTour with Team Sky in 2013 but will be an unknown quantity at the road race this weekend. He is well suited to the hilly course and although not short on talent, he could well find himself short on miles.
The longest race he has completed in 2012 is the 204.6km stage three of the Route du Sud in the South of France. At 267km, Sunday’s race will mean at least another hour of racing and a ride into the unknown.
Philippe Gilbert (Belgium, 13/5 odds) is the current favourite for the race, which culminates with an ascent of the Cauberg and a 2km dash to the line, ahead of Peter Sagan (Slovakia, 3/1). Nevertheless Tiernan-Locke has odds of 25/1: not bad for a rider who just over 12 months ago was best known for winning the 2011 Ryedale GP.
“We’re gonna go in as if we can win the bike race”
Unlike Copenhagen in 2011 and at the Olympic Games in July, Great Britain will go into the race with no expectations and minimal pressure. For once the responsibility of controlling the race will fall on the likes of Belgium, Australia and Spain: all of whom have riders capable of winning.
That new-found freedom gives them options, including Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Froome has been resting at home near Monaco following a gruelling and exhausting campaign at the Vuelta a Espana while Wiggins recently withdrew from the Tour of Britain, citing a stomach complaint.
“I think if you had Brad and Chris on their absolute best form then you’d be thinking, ‘yes we can win the bike race,'” Ellingworth continued. “Froomey is up for it, if he’s recovered alright after the Vuelta. We won’t know until halfway through the race because he’s done nothing for two weeks.”
Defending champion Mark Cavendish will struggle over the numerous and frequent hills in Limburg and has little to no hope of repeating his 2011 win. He’ll be on hand to complete team duties, while younger riders Luke Rowe, Ben Swift and Alex Dowsett will benefit from the experience of the race.