Last weekend Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, won two stages and the overall at Tour Méditerranéen. There was a suspicion that he was slightly lucky and that the shortened stages (due to snow) had somehow helped him. This weekend was the Tour du Haut Var a two-day stage race held in the hills above Cannes and St-Tropez. The stage lengths are around the 200km mark and some of the bigger boys came out to play as well.
A breakaway dominated Stage 1 from Draguignan – La Croix Valmer (189.2 km). Two of them held on to the finish. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (JT-L from now on to save typing) jumped clear of the peleton on the finishing climb to finish in third place, six seconds behind, and set himself up for today.
Stage 2 from Fréjus – Fayence (205.4 km) was a bit of a brute. Five cols and a viciously steep final kilometre.
The early part of the race had the inevitable breakaway, but JT-L’s team Endura Racing and the Bretagne-Schuller (who had the race lead) with a bit of help from Garmin-Barracuda and BMC rode tempo until it all came back together at the penultimate climb. JT-L started to attack at this point, not full throttle as it was too far out, but hard enough to thin the peleton out and get a feel for who had the legs. This caused a break to form of about ten riders and that is the point at which the video starts.
Three things stood out on the video, when an attack went from the break he didn’t panic, he just settled in, recovered and made sure that he was ready for the final climb, the second thing was just how fast he comes up the hill, The third was that he was going so quickly he almost overcooked an uphill hairpin bend.
The Haut Var website has a video of most of Stage 2 and a full review of Stage 1. Commentary is (obviously) in French. If you have a couple of hours to waste, watch it. Near the beginning of the video the presenter interviewed the great French cyclist Raymond Poulidor. Even though my French is not that great, I understood enough to know that he thinks that JT-L is the real thing. Stephen Roche is also convinced. See this from his Twitter feed.
I know that Philippe Gilbert is probably saving his uphill sprinting for the Fléche Wallon and Liege-Bastionge-Leige, and similarly with some of the other big names in the field, but it is still a very impressive start to the season. It should also get Endura invites to some bigger races. I for one would like to see what they can do in some of the hillier classics.