Simon Clarke Retains Lead After Jayco Herald Sun Tour Stage Three

Fri 7 Feb 2014

Simon Clarke has defended his lead on stage three of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, after emerging unscathed from a chaotic bunch sprint finish in Nagambie. Clarke was the top finisher for ORICA-GreenEDGE, in eleventh position behind stage winner Robert McCarthy (Jayco U23), and retains his 8” overall lead ahead of tomorrow’s final stage.

ORICA-GreenEDGE worked hard in difficult conditions throughout today’s 156 kilometre stage from Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie in an effort to maintain control of the race and protect Clarke’s general classification lead.

“The plan today was to let a small group of non-GC contenders get away early, and then try to bring things back for a bunch sprint for Gossy,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “Mitch Docker and Damien Howson did an abolutely incredible job for the team today. They were on the front from start to finish and really gave us the best shot at another stage win and also kept Clarkey out of trouble.”

The race unfolded mostly to plan for the Australian team, but a late crash and some confusion in the final marred the eventual bunch sprint finish and derailed the team’s chances at a second stage win.

“Unfortunately there was some confusion for a lot of the riders about the placement of the finish line,” continued Wilson. “That led to the guys mistiming the sprint. It was a shame after the great work they had done all day, but it was still a good day for us. Everyone escaped the crash at the end and Clarkey retained the overall lead, which is our main focus now.”

Weather conditions in country Victoria made for a difficult day of racing for the peloton as they made their way through the Goulburn Valley in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees.

“It was a tough day for everyone out there,” added Wilson. “We saw 42 degrees at one point on the temperature gauge, so the conditions were extremely hot and testing. It was a super effort by our guys to ride so well for the team in such difficult conditions.”

With just one day of racing remaining in this year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Clarke takes a comfortable overall lead into tomorrow’s Queen stage on the Mornington Peninsula. The 125 kilometre course will feature three ascents up Arthur’s Seat in a stage that the team is confident will suit Clarke’s climbing abilities.

“Tomorrow is the hardest day of the tour and the big showdown, so we are really focused on that now," said Wilson. "It’s a great stage for Clarkey, and he is feeling fresh and confident, so we are looking forward to getting things underway on Arthur’s Seat."