Another Tour de France Breakaway for Simon ClarkeSat 20 Jul 2013
Simon Clarke was part of a ten rider breakaway that took shape over the first two categorised climbs on the penultimate stage of the Tour de France. It was the third time the Victorian has featured in the escape groups over the three week tour.
“The whole third week, I’ve been trying for the breakaway but I kept on missing it,” said Clarke. “Today it went quite easily straight off the start. I managed to get in the move right away."
On the hunt for points in the mountain classification, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) was the first rider to attack. The Frenchman was joined by Jens Voigt (RadioShack Leopard Trek), Marcus Burghardt (BMC) and Juan Antonia Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM). The quartet was trailed by a group of six that included Clarke, Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha). The two groups merged on the lower slopes of the Col de Leschaux.
“The crowds on the road today were amazing,” Clarke recalled. “There were so many people. Particularly at the bottom of Mont Revard. The crowd was just unbelievable. The fans at the Tour make being in the break a pretty special experience.”
Movistar seemed intent on the stage win from the start, and the Spanish squad assumed control of the chase. When the gap between the peloton and the breakaway fell under one minute, Voigt attacked on the category one Mont Revard. As Voigt pulled away from the escape group, Clarke dug deep to hold onto Voigt’s wheel. He was the last of his former breakaway companion’s to fall away.
“I tried to follow Jens when he attacked, but I couldn’t quite keep up,” admitted Clarke. “I settled into my rhythm until I got information over the radio that there were other riders coming from behind.”
Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and his teammate Philippe Gilbert jumped from the peloton when they sensed a lull in the pace. The duo picked up the remnants of the break. By the time they reached Clarke, a new nine rider chase group had taken shape.
“When I learned van Garderen and Gilbert were coming across, I sat up and waited a bit for them to catch me,” said Clarke. “We stayed together until the bottom of the final climb.”
Clarke and company were caught at the base of Annecy-Semnoz. Team Sky had replaced Movistar at the head of affairs by this point. Setting a fierce but steady tempo, the British team thinned out the yellow jersey group until only eight riders remained in Voigt’s wake. Shortly after, the group caught and quickly passed Voigt.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) were the first two to attack. Race leader Chris Froome (Sky) responded with ease The trio dispatched of Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), who would slip from second to fourth on the general classification by stage end.
Quintana proved the biggest winner on Saturday. The 23-year-old Colombian soloed to stage victory ahead of Rodriguez and Froome. In the process, he jumped up to second overall, secured his lead in the best young rider competition and won the mountain classification. Froome crossed the finish line 29” behind Quintana, with a slight smile on his face.
Although one more stage remains, the procession that begins in Versailles and ends on the Champs-Élysées is a showdown for the sprinters. The jerseys will not under threat at the peloton makes it way to Paris.
“I’m happy I got through the Tour unscathed,” said Clarke. “I was in three breakaways, and that’s the reason I was brought here – to go into breakaways. I made every attempt to get up the road and try to win a stage. It’s really good that all nine us will ride into Paris. Everyone on the team contributed to what was a really successful Tour for the team, and we all deserve to celebrate together tomorrow.”