Clarke Wins Stage 2 of Herald Sun Tour 2014
On a day where race leader Nathan Haas of Team Garmin-Sharp-POC faltered, Simon Clarke of Team GreenEdge secured himself a spot in the breakaway group which eventually brought him both the stage victory and the overall Herald Sun Tour race lead. Team GreenEdge had been outclassed by Garmin-Sharp-POC in both the prologue and stage 1.
Clarke led home Cameron Wurf (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team) and 20-year-old Bendigo local Jack Haig (Avanti Cycling Team), as the trio successfully held the peloton at bay after escaping over the category one climb at Mount Alexander.
In a move initiated at the 20 kilometer mark of the stage, Clarke and Haig spent over 100 kilometers off the front of the peloton, joined by former Olympic rower Wurf over the top of the day’s major climb.
17 riders made the initial escape before it was whittled to three up the climb.
Stage one winner Haas crossed the line seventh on the stage, as part of the second group on the road led home by current Australian champion Simon Gerrans.
Haas lost over one minute on the stage to Clarke.
A former white jersey winner at the race, Clarke’s victory in the 165 kilometer second stage from Ballarat to Bendigo was his first at the Herald Sun Tour.
Clarke cited the rivalry between GreenEdge's and Garmin-Sharp-POC’s brigade of young Australian riders as motivation to correct what he saw as an unexpectedly understated opening to this year's Herald Sun Tour.
“It was a very hard day out there, we had to just try and give it to Garmin,” Clarke explained.
“Yesterday Haas was just so strong, Cameron Meyer and I tried to ‘one-two’ him, and he was just all over us, and he beat us all in the sprint.
“We really had to go out on the front foot and try and put them on the back foot and we managed to do that.”
It was a case of executing the game plan to the letter for Team GreenEdge as Clarke said his tactic was to get into the break and apply the squeeze to those around him up the testing final climb of the day.
“The group through the day wasn’t working ideally, so on the climb there at Mount Alexander we had to try and buy a lottery ticket.
“Fortunately Cameron Wurf was there, who is just as strong as an Ox, so I said to the other boys when we were near to the top to make sure we wait for him and as you saw he was of great value to the breakaway and pretty much the reason we stayed away.”
Clarke revealed GreenEdge teammate Mitch Docker had also been sent up the road with the sole responsibility of ensuring that the break stayed away long enough for him to pounce on the category one Mount Alexander climb.
“I’ve really got to thank [Docker], he did an awesome job, managed to set it up for me, I attacked on the climb, and just made sure I didn’t try and go solo, but just break it down so that there was a couple of us that could really commit, and who better than Cam and Jack Haig to have with us.”
With the time bonus on the stage win, Clarke holds an eight second advantage over Wurf in the general classification, with Haig moving into the White Jersey a further three seconds back.
With the powerful GreenEdge team at his disposal and a faltered Garmin-Sharp-POC team in the rear view mirror, Clarke has his sights firmly set on holding onto the leader’s yellow jersey through to the finish line on Arthur’s Seat.
“You see the honor roll and I’d love to have my name on there,” Clarke said
“We’re working hard, so let’s hope I still have the yellow jersey on Sunday. I’ve had my fair share of doing the support job, and hopefully they can repay me this week, that would be great.”
Fresh from winning the best young rider jersey at the Tour Down Under, another person with eyes to wearing yellow on Sunday is Bendigo-local Haig.
“I’d like to think I do have a chance in there, but it will be hard.”
A nonchalant Haig admitted he was keen to perform well on the run into his hometown, but had earmarked the day as another bike race with a job to do.
“I just head out there and do what I do best,” he said.
“I definitely did think about coming into Bendigo, I knew the roads quite well, and I knew there would be quite a few people out there cheering.”
Haig said local knowledge became useful late in the stage with little left in reserve for the closing kilometers towards the finish line.
“Knowing the roads was handy, because I was struggling so much, I knew exactly how far I had to go, where the climbs were, where the descents were, where I could rest, so it was handy knowing that sort of stuff.
“I’ve definitely got a good chance of a podium as well, I’d like to think that I have a small chance of maybe being able to take yellow, but it’s going to be so hard to take it off a class rider like Simon.”