Clarke top finisher after day out front on Paris-Nice stage 6

Sat 14 Mar 2015

2014 Herald Sun Tour champion Simon Clarke has finished 27th, ORICA-GreenEDGE’s top performer, on stage six of Paris-Nice.

Clarke entered the action early in an initial breakaway of 14 and was shortly joined by chasers, including teammate Simon Yates, to at one point form a group 31-riders strong.

“We had nominated three guys to monitor and do what they could to make the breakaway today,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said. “They were Clarke, Yates and Michael Albasini.”

“Clarke was good enough to make the initial break and Simon Yates made the right move to bridge across.”

As the race reached its crescendo the front group changed formation on countless occasions as the general classification riders exchanged blows. Eventually Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) broke free for a solo stage win and the overall lead.

As a secondary option, should the race come back together for a select bunch sprint, ORICA-GreenEDGE was ready to support stage three winner Michael Matthews.

“If the break wasn’t successful, we would still have two guys there to help Bling if he could get to the finish. In the end he lost contact on the second last climb.”

Matthew was also riding in defence of his green sprinters jersey and will enter the final day with a six-point lead over Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha).

Today’s penultimate stage had riders navigate five categorised climbs, including three category ones.

Less than five kilometres into the race a strong break of 14 worked its way off the front, Clarke the sole ORICA-GreenEDGE representative.

Various groups chased them until 26 riders formed at the front, Yates adding a second member for the Australian outfit. After just under 50km of racing, an additional group joined them to make 31 as the peloton hovered around two minutes behind.

As riders struggled to stay in touch at the front, it was up to the general classification contenders to bridge the gap on a difficult and wet day of racing.

With a little over 40km remaining the yellow jersey of Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quickstep) bridged across and Team Sky set off in pursuit.  Ten kilometres later the move of Gallopin broke the elastic and he held on for the victory.

The Paris-Nice concludes tomorrow with a 9.6km uphill time trial.