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"The team was rock solid. We had a good plan. Everything was clicking. At the end of the day, it was a major performance by Simon Clarke," Bradley McGee tells CyclingQuotes


Photo: Sirotti








29.09.2013 @ 20:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard, Florence

Cadel Evans and Richie Porte formed a strong Australian duo of outsiders for today's world championships but after two laps both had been taken out of contention by crashes. Instead, it was Simon Clarke who flew the Australian flag with a breakthrough 7th place and proved himself on a completely new level.


With Simon Gerrans out of contention due to a broken hip, Australia hadn't one of the major favourites in their ranks at today's world championships road race but Cadel Evans and Richie Porte formed a strong duo of outsiders on the tough course in Florence. The team had several cards to play but after a few laps on the circuit, they were left with just one rider in the bunch.


Like several other riders, both major Australian riders hit the deck. Porte was the first to go down and later Evans was hit by similarly bad fortune.


"Richie actually crashed well before the circuits, at about 80km in," national team sports director Bradley McGee told CyclingQuotes after the race. "And then he went down again later. So he actually never got to the pointy end of the race to be protected. Richie was basically never in it."


"Cadel was right where he needed to be, did everything right before the circuit, always stayed in position, had his team around him where he needed to be but unfortunately had a very big crash on the second or third lap. David Tanner went down there heavy as well."


"I thought they had both broken their legs. There was no way they could get back on their bikes. They both went to the hospital. Fortunately, everything is okay but it was race over. In a space of one or two laps, we went from having a strong team in a good position to having just one rider left in the bunch."


That rider was Simon Clarke. Having originally been expected to play a domestique role, the 27-year-old Orica-GreenEDGE rider suddenly found himself in the position of leader of one of the major cycling nations in a world championships road race.


Many riders would have cracked under that kind of pressure but Clarke didn't. Instead, he rose to the challenge, stayed in the main chase group with the likes of Peter Sagan, Philippe Gilbert and Fabian Cancellara and was ultimately only beaten by the Slovakian star in the sprint for 6th.


"[Simon] just came through and delivered an incredible performance, both for himself but also for Australia," McGee said. "That's what we're here for. He's really flied the flag high."


Last year Clarke won a big mountain stage and the mountains jersey in the Vuelta and this year he put in a number of strong attacks on the toughest stages of the Tour de France. However, he has never featured at the pointy end of the biggest one-day races and so McGee wasn't too confident in a top result when Clarke was his only option left.


"Simon was actually Cadel's wingman," he said. "He was expected to deliver Cadel to one lap to go. Coming into the final lap, he had done a fantastic job and did what we expected but I didn't expect him to have the legs he had. He has shown nothing in the past to suggest that he would be there with guys like Gilbert at the end of 270km. He's really proved himself on a new level with his performance today. That was fantastic."


While Clarke was a positive surprise, Evans was left disappointed. Following a terrible Tour de France, the BMC captain had shown great morale by riding himself into condition for a race that appeared to offer him a chance to repeat his 2009 win.


"He was [disappointed]," McGee said. "He was on fire. He had the perfect preparation, he was the perfect leader, he was taking the responsibility. He was right where he needed to be but it was just bad luck. It was really devastating. It was hard for us."


"Then Simon came back to the car and we could see that he was on a good one. He's gone on and carried the flag very well all the way to the finish. The team was rock solid. We had a good plan. Everything was clicking. At the end of the day, it was a major performance by Simon Clarke. Thank you very much, Simon Clarke!"


Late in the summer, Simon Gerrans was expected to be the Australian leader at the race but the Orica-GreenEDGE rider had to put an early end to the season due to a broken hip suffered in a crash in the Vuelta. That incident was indicative of the bad fortune that hampered the Australian chances in the race as McGee felt that Gerrans could have performed well.


"Absolutely," he said when asked if Gerrans would have had any chances in race of attrition like today's. "I was never really definitive: was it a GC type rider or a puncher that was going to win today? We always knew that Simon was right in the middle. The second-best option was probably Cadel Evans who can also swing both ways."


"Simon had a crash, we lost Michael Rogers from a crash, today we lost six from crashes. It was just bad luck. Everything else was pretty solid so we are looking forward to the next couple of years."


Clarke's 7th place was a massive improvement on Gerrans' 21st place in last year's Worlds in Valkenburg.



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