Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura) came within a whisker of taking his sixth victory of 2012 in the Tour of Murcia on Sunday, finally finishing just six seconds behind Colombia's Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the overall classification.
Third on the previous high mountain stage, the Endura rider was a solid 14th in the 12.3 kilometre flat, untechnical time trial through the streets of Murcia that decided the race, won by Rusvelo's Alexandre Serov.
More importantly, Tiernan-Locke was ten seconds faster than Quintana after an incident-free ride, narrowing the gap between the two considerably and pushing Belgium's Wouter Poels down to third overall. However, Tiernan-Locke's strong performance was not quite enough to add the Tour of Murcia to a palmares already containing the 2012 Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour du Haut Var.
"It all went absolutely fine, particularly if you remember this is all very new for him: he's never been battling for such a high level race in a time trial before," Endura team sports director Alex Sans Vega told Cycling Weekly.
"We had high hopes for him, because it was a good time trial course for power riders like him. But it was a new kind of test, and you never know the result until he's done it. I'd say he came through with very high marks."
Asked how long he thinks Tiernan-Locke's run of good form can last, Sans Vega said "he wasn't in absolute top form today, although he was going well. But yesterday [Saturday] he was really strong, so I don't think he's losing anything."
Tiernan-Locke now heads for Paris-Troyes, a one day race, next Sunday, and he will then follow that up with the Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy, a UCI category 2.1 race like the Tour of Murcia, before heading back to France for Route Adelie Classic.
Tour of Murcia 2012, stage two: Murcia to Murcia, 12.3km ITT
1. Alexander Serov (Rus) Rus-velo in 13-46
2. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar at same time
3. Alexander Wetterhall (Swe) Endura Racing at 3 secs
4. Alexey Kunshin (Rus) Lokosphinx at 6 secs
5. Jan Barta (Cze) Net App at 11 secs
Final overall classification
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 5-06-10
2. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (GBr) Endura at 6 secs
3. Wouters Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 9 secs
4. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) Movistar at 15 secs
5. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar at 21 secs
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 22 secs
7. Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 25 secs
8. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 33 secs
9. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Net App at 47 secs
10. Paul Voss (Ger) Endura Racing at 1-24
Tour of Murcia 2012 stage one: Tiernan-Locke takes third
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke: Rider Profile
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