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“I’ve spent a lot of time supporting Gerro and the important thing for me is when I do get the opportunity to have a bit of free reign and go for myself, I make the most of that,” Clarke says

Photo: Sirotti

HERALD SUN TOUR

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS

SIMON CLARKE

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

TEAM PROFILE
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NEWS
09.02.2014 @ 09:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) got a rare chance to ride for himself when he took the leader's jersey on stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and the former Vuelta king of the mountains again proved that he is a very capable bike rider by defending the win all the way to the finish. Being content with his role as a support rider for Simon Gerrans, he stresses the importance of being ready whenever he is given a free reign to ride for himself.

 

Simon Clarke has claimed the overall victory at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in unusual circumstances after the final Queen stage of the five day tour was cancelled due to extreme fire danger in the region. With his stage win in Bendigo on Thursday, Clarke had built up a lead of 8” over Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) in second place and a comfortable 1’22 advantage over the riders thought to be general classification contenders. All classification results earned following yesterday’s stage three became the final overall results.

“Everyone is happy with the week of racing here and the win,” said Clarke. “The guys did a great job and worked really hard for me this week. We were confident going in to today’s stage that we would be able to defend the overall, but like in any bike race, anything can happen. We were up for the challenge, and it was a shame that we didn’t get a chance to do that.”

“It’s unfortunate for the organisers that the last stage was cancelled today, but we are still really happy to have won the overall here,” Clark added. “I’m looking forward to having this win on my palmarès.”
 

Clarke supported the decision to cancel the final stage.

 

“Obviously it’s unfortunate, I was keen to race, I think all the riders were, but obviously safety is a priority,” Clarke said. “I think we all heard that there’s quite a high fire danger today and the important thing is everyone’s safety and the fact that there’s some fires in rural Victoria and services were required there they had to make the call.”

 

Despite not having the chance to cross the finish line in yellow, the reward of overall victory more than satisfied Clarke.

 

“I still get to stand on the podium, for us it is still a great win and we’re stoked to have been able to come away winning,” said Clarke. “Gerro [National champion and Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerans] didn’t get the triple-crown, but GreenEDGE got the triple crown.”

 

“So we’re happy as a team, it’s been a great summer for us and we’ll go to Europe motivated to try and continue that run."

 

Moving into the overall race lead through victory in Friday’s second stage to Bendigo, Clarke said the form and strength of his teammates this past four days had him confident of retaining yellow on the Tour’s queen stage.

 

“Our plan was our team’s strength, we got six really strong guys here, and we just had to stick together and work well together and make sure that we come into that last time with myself, Gerro and Cam (Meyer) there by my side to provide support for me," he said. “That was the plan, who knows what could have happened.”

 

A King of the Mountain jersey winner at the 2012 Vuelta a España, and seventh in last year’s world championship road race, Clarke was buoyed by his success and ability to grab his chances as Orica-GreenEDGE’s go to man on the road.

 

“I’ve spent a lot of time supporting Gerro and the important thing for me is when I do get the opportunity to have a bit of free reign and go for myself, I make the most of that,” Clarke said. “I got that opportunity at the world championships last year and made the most of it, and at the Tour Down Under I was pretty much devoted to Gerro but I got told that here I would have a bit of free reign to try and make the race myself.”

 

In the immediate afterglow of the final presentations Clarke had a moment to reflect on adding his name to the esteemed honour roll of Australia’s most prestigious stage race.

 

“That’s probably the most honourable part of winning this race is looking back through at who’s won it and being on this list. That’s something I’ll be very proud of.”

 

With little time to bask in his success, Clarke boards a flight tomorrow morning for Europe where his first major racing appointment is Paris – Nice in March, before turning his attention to the Ardennes classics.

 

Wilson praises teamwork
A great show of teamwork throughout the week saw Clarke claw his way back up the overall and into the leader’s jersey after he lost time to GC threat Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) on stage one in Ballarat. Clarke spent a gruelling day in the breakaway on stage two to claim the stage win and a comfortable margin atop the overall classification. The team looked forward to defending that lead all the way to finish line at Arthur’s Seat today.

“It’s a bittersweet result for the team,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “The guys all rode so well this week - Clarkey especially. It’s a shame he didn’t get to finish the race in its entirety because he deserved the win and he deserved to have his moment. This isn’t the way you want to win a race, but it was well earned over the course of the week and he would have been hard to beat today. We are extremely happy to come away with the overall win.”

The Jayco Herald Sun Tour victory is ORICA-GreenEDGE’s second general classification win on home soil, following last month’s Santos Tour Down Under win. It is also the third time in as many weeks that the GreenEDGE family has won the team classification (Tour Down Under, Ladies Tour of Qatar, Herald Sun Tour). The Australian outfit is once again buoyed by the exemplary teamwork that paved the way to this victory.

“It has been a fantastic week for the team,” said Wilson. “Everyone committed completely to the team’s goals and to Clarkey, and I can’t praise their efforts enough. Stage two in particular was a great performance by all of the guys, to come from so far back and put Clarkey into such a winning position was very impressive.”

It is the first time in the 61 year history of this event that a stage has been cancelled under such circumstances. Emergency services crews on hand at the race were called away to fire threatened areas of the region, and couldn’t guarantee the safety of the event if it went ahead. With up to 6,000 spectators expected to line the roads to Arthur’s Seat for today’s stage, the safety of the crowds and the riders was the priority.

“There is dry grass lining the climb the whole way up, and with such high temperatures and winds, we were told that fire would have engulfed the climb in less than five minutes,” explained Wilson. “We are disappointed not to get to race today, but we completely support the decision that was made. When you consider the possible danger, there really was no option.”

“This is just a bike race, at the end of the day,” Wilson said. “Our thoughts are with the Victorian people that are battling and facing the threat of bushfires at the moment.”

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