Clarke becomes third ORICA-GreenEDGE rider to don Maglia Rosa at the Giro d'ItaliaTue 12 May 2015
The ‘Maglia Rosa’ has once again changed hands today, Australian Simon Clarke finishing second on the fourth stage to claim the overall lead from teammate Michael Matthews.
Clarke will be the third ORICA-GreenEDGE rider to don the pink jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia, following stints by Matthews and Simon Gerrans.
The 28-year-old finished at the head of a select group, 22seconds behind solo winner Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin). He leads the general classification by ten seconds from teammate Esteban Chaves, who also finished in the small group of overall contenders.
"It's a pretty special moment,” Clarke said. “You could see the emotion on the line.”
“I'm stoked to keep the Maglia Rosa in the team. I couldn't hold it back, keeping it at Orica-GreenEDGE. It has been an awesome start to the Giro for us.”
It was the second consecutive day in the breakaway for both Clarke and Chaves, a consideration the pair were well aware of.
“Myself and Esteban Chaves really had to ride smart today because we had one day’s breakaway already in our legs and that really takes it’s toll,” Clarke said.
“During the stage we missed a few small attacks because we really had to be selective of the moves we followed to conserve as much energy as possible.
“When the GC guys caught us we had managed to conserve enough that we were two of the few guys that were able to jump on the back and finish with the front group.”
On what was a day that no one could have predicted, sport director Matt White was pleased with the team’s reaction to the unexpected race outcome.
“Today’s stage showed how riders make courses,” White said. “That stage could have ended up in a 50-up sprint, instead we saw the first selection for the Giro d’Italia.”
“The team reacted perfectly. We had our three climbers in the breakaway so we were in the perfect position again. Pieter got dropped because he was sick, but having Clarke and Esteban there was ideal for us.
“What many people wouldn’t have seen was the effort by all the guys to control which break went away, it was another full team effort today.”
How it unfolded
Today’s 150km stage four from Chiavari to La Spezia set off much like the day prior, a large group of around 25 riders forming at the front of proceedings.
Simon Clarke and Esteban Chaves rode themselves into the move for the second consecutive day, this time joined briefly by ORICA-GreenEDGE teammate Pieter Weening.
With the pace fierce, the formation was volatile as the head of the race changed shape on a number of occasions.
With 80km to go a group of 17, with Clarke in toe, was joined by an additional 12 riders, including Chaves, the pair again patrolling the action as the gap to the peloton grew to ten minutes.
The composition of the group continued to change as riders negotiated the second categorised climb of the day. Behind them Astana joined the chase, the pace too much for the majority of the peloton, including leader Michael Matthews who began to suffer.
Over the top, six riders distanced a second small group, with Chaves and Clarke, by 25seconds. The peloton had reduced their gap to six minutes.
The two groups once again rejoined on the descent, a break of 15riders the new leaders. Whilst the peloton dramatically reduced in number courtesy of Astana’s pressure, the gap followed suit, just a couple of minutes ahead of the final climb.
From the front group, Formolo, aware of the intensity of the chase, made his move before the small peloton joined his former breakaway companions as he survived to the line.
Tomorrow, stage five presents the Giro d’Italia’s first hill top finish for 2015, a category two finale in Abetone. Starting in La Spezia, the peloton will first negotiate a smaller category three climb earlier in the 152km stage.