Tour of Britain winner is Devon's Jonathan Tiernan-Locke
WHAT started as a tour of triumph for Bradley Wiggins ended as a tour de force from a new star of British cycling.
It was somebody from much closer to home than Olympic gold medallist Wiggins who became a hero for the thousands of spectators lining the route of Stage Seven through North Devon.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, from Plymouth, may not have won his home stage but he did enough in finishing eighth on Saturday to hold on to the leader's gold jersey.
The next day, Tiernan-Locke, 27, finished the job in Surrey to become the first home winner of the Tour of Britain since Robert Millar in 1989.
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After completing the final stage comfortably placed in the main field to hold an 18-second lead, Tiernan-Locke said: "It's well clear of my other wins, right at the top for sure.
"Not just because it's the Tour of Britain but, because of all the crowds and support, it's just been on another level."
Tiernan-Locke enjoyed the support on Saturday as part of a chasing pack more than half a minute behind the first four who fought out an exciting sprint finish on Dartmouth quay.
"It was fantastic," said Tiernan-Locke. "I saw the crowds lining the two big climbs over Dartmoor and I was trying to see if I knew anyone, but you just couldn't see anyone.
"I had goose pimples and it was something I'll never forget."
Wiggins pulled out of the Tour on Friday with a stomach bug.
But the crowd at the start line in Barnstaple still got a glimpse of reigning road-race world champion Mark Cavendish, while local hero Tiernan-Locke was easy to spot in the golden top.
After a frantic start between Barnstaple and Bideford, Cavendish spent most of the 170km race in the peloton.
Tiernan-Locke, who started the stage with a 13-second advantage over Australia's Leigh Howard, saw that lead cut as his rival won the sprint section in Great Torrington.
But Tiernan-Locke is a strong climber and he reasserted his authority by taking second place in the King of the Mountains climb at South Hill, near Little Torrington.
With the help of his Endura Racing team-mates, Tiernan-Locke led across Dartmoor before settling into a position at the front of the peloton to maintain what turned out to be a winning lead in the general classification.
The front four made their break from the final sprint at Slapton Ley and, after the steep descent into Dartmouth, Pablo Urtasun, from Spain, pedalled hard to pip Dutchman Marc De Maar by a fraction of a second.
Cavendish came through in 60th place but won Stage Eight – his third stage win of the 2012 Tour – and took second place in the points competition.
Cavendish is now expected to leave Team Sky, with Tiernan-Locke moving in.
They will be team-mates on Sunday, however, for Great Britain in the World Championships in Netherlands where Cavendish defends his road-race title.
Tiernan-Locke said: "I don't think it has sunk in how good it has been to ride in front of these crowds.
"I'll ride the Worlds and that's my season done, so I think I'll reflect on it then."
Tour of Britain – IG Final Classification: 1 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing), 33hrs 11mins 22secs; 2 Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), 33-11-40; 3 Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale), 33-11-45; 4 Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE), 33-12-24; 5 Christopher Jones (United Healthcare), 33-12-34.
Chain Reaction Cycles Points Competition: 1 Boy Van Poppel (United Healthcare), 76pts; 2 Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling), 59; 3 Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), 56.
Skoda King of the Mountains Competition: 1 Kristian House (Rapha Condor), 86pts; 2 Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel Euskadi), 67; 3 Bernard Sulzberger (Raleigh-GAC), 49.
Yodel Sprints Competition: 1 Peter Williams (Node 4-Giordana), 45pts; 2 Marcin Bialoblocki (Node 4-Giordana), 23; 3 Mathew Cronshaw (Node 4-Giordana), 13.
Stage 7 (Barnstaple to Dartmouth) – top 10: 1 Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel Euskadi), 4hrs 20mins 31secs; 2 Marc De Maar (United Healthcare), 4-20-31; 3 Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), 4-20-31; 4 Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi), 4-20-33; 5 Leopold Koenig (Team NetApp), 4-21-09; 6 Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), 4-21-17; 7 Bernard Sulzberger (Raleigh-GAC), 4-21-17; 8 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing), 4-21-17; 9 Bartosz Huzarski (Team NetApp), 4-21-17; 10 Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale), 4-21-17.
Skoda King of the Mountains Competition – South Hill, Little Torrington: 1 David Lelay (Saur Sojasun), 2 Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing), 3 Marc De Maar (United Healthcare), 4 Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel Euskadi), 5 Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), 6 Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp).
Yodel Sprints Competition – Great Torrington: 1 Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE), 2 Russell Downing (Endura Racing), 3 Boy Van Poppel (United Healthcare), 4 Peter Williams (Node 4-Giordana).