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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Veteran Australian without a contract till recently wins Tour de France stage, breaks down after thrilling photo finish

Simon Clarke, who didn’t have a team after last winter, says he waiting for the other cyclists to panic which they did near the end.

Written by Nitin Sharma |
Updated: July 7, 2022 12:25:36 pm
Last year, Clarke, a professional cyclist with more than 13 years of international tour experience, was without a team and a contract.(Twitter/Tour de France)

As the 35-year-old Simon Clarke sat on the road after the finish of the 153.7 km long fifth stage of Tour de France in Arenburg Porte du Hainant, the Australian cyclist asked for a water bottle from one of the support staff and sat for more than a minute after a photo finish with the Dutch rider Taco van der Hoorn . It was only after his team-mates from the Israel-Premier Tech team came over to say, “You have done it, mate,” that the veteran cyclist stood up, and was hugged by his team-mates.

Last year, Clarke, a professional cyclist with more than 13 years of international tour experience, was without a team and a contract and on Wednesday evening, as he won through a bike throw push in the last seconds of the stage, the cyclist remembered his tough days without a team.

“I mean after the winter when I had no team to then have these guys (Israel-Premier Tech team) ring me up and say we will give you a chance, just gives you a reality check to make the most of every opportunity. In this season, I have come out in every race swinging because I try to make the most of every opportunity and even these first four to five days, I have been contributing to the team,” Clarke said.

The Melbourne cyclist, who was competing in his seventh Tour de France, and has won two stages at Vuelta a Espana in the past, had been left with no contract after his tenure with team EF ended. It was then that he was approached for a one-year-deal by Israel-Premier Tech to be in a team, which was founded in 2014.

“I could be sitting in an office right now. I am appreciating the situation I am in, and I am making the most of the situation. I appreciate them ( Israel-Premier tech) taking me at the last minute when all the team budgets are signed off. They made an exception for me, and this is me saying ‘thank you’. Just having a team, from being in the situation I was in. I want to pay them back,” Clarke told Velonews earlier this year.

The 157.7 km long fifth stage of Tour de France, which runs from Lille to Arenberg in France, sees the cyclists also tackling more than 20kms of cobbled roads and the eleven cobbled road sections around Roubaix provide enough challenge to the riders. On Wednesday, Primoz Roglic, runner up in 2020, collided with another Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan after a stray hay bale hit Ewan.

Roglic would dislocate his shoulder but adjusted the shoulder himself on the roadside before joining the race. The last one km of the stage saw four riders including Clarke and Hoorn aiming for the top spot with Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen and American Neilson Powles. Clark gave a final push near the end to edge out Hoorn in a photo finish.

“I thought maybe today is the day. I still can’t believe I got on the line. Hoorn was well ahead of me even with less than 50m to go and I was cramping in both the legs and I still lined up the biggest throw I could possibly do at the finish line and I just tried, that was enough. I need to watch the replay. I still can’t quite believe it,” Carke said after the win.

While Clarke was almost sobbing on the road after his win, Israel-Premier Tech’s sports director Zak Dempster was celebrating the win in the team car. “I said in the team car straight away, there’s a guy who on Christmas Day didn’t have a job. The team gave him a chance and honestly I think the chance has been repaid 10-fold,” Zak told Sydney Morning Herald.

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The Australian had moved to Europe at the age of 16 and July 18, the second rest day of the race, will also make 20 years of Clarke being training in Europe. “I will be turning 36 on the second rest day. 20 years now in Europe and today the dream has come true. Both of my wins on the world tour too had the same finishes and I know one has to bide your time,” said Clarke. “I was waiting for the other guys to panic before I did. Luckily, they took the bait and I had to chase them hard during the last stretch. I just went as hard as I could on the line.”

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First published on: 07-07-2022 at 12:10:04 pm

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