Simon Clarke second in action-packed farewell for Evans

Sun 1 Feb 2015

2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion Simon Clarke has sprinted to second place at the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong this afternoon.

The ‘European Classics’ like course promised surprises and it well and truly delivered, as an enthralling battle unfolded to see out an Australian cycling champion in Evans.

Clarke survived the early war of attrition and positioned himself in an elite front group of riders at the business end of the race.  Eventually a select assembly, made up of less than ten riders, contested the final sprint with Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quickstep) reigning supreme.

“It was a bloody hard day,” Clarke said post-race. “We always knew that the conditions were going to have a big effect on the race but throwing the rain in there with the wind, there was no hiding or holding back.”

“You had to make sure you kept staying in the front with the attacks and from the turn back into Geelong towards the finish circuit it was racing full gas the whole way.

“If you weren’t aggressive at the front you were going backwards.”

The first major break of the race, including Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing), Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Darcey Wooley (African Wildlife Safaris) and Josh Taylor (Charter Mason Giant) established after 14km of racing.

Brodie Talbot (Team Budget Forklifts) bridged across to make a group of five, before Didier suffered in a fall and withdrew and their-once five-minute advantage diminished.

With 80km to ride, as the race turned to make its way back to the local Geelong finishing circuit, Garmin-Cannondale utilised crosswinds to split the field into pieces.  As the race crossed the finish line, with 60km left, for the start of the three final circuits, ORICA-GreenEDGE was down to just three riders – Clarke, Damien Howson and Cameron Meyer.

The dynamic at the front of the race continued to change as groups went off the front and out the back. Clarke brought himself back into serious contention bridging a gap to an escape group of three riders and remaining aggressive and present in each move throughout the final lap.

Crowds lined the street course wide, in particular on the finishing circuit, to watch teams trade blows and keep everyone guessing on the likely outcome at crunch point.

“It’s been a great weekend,” Clarke said. “The crowd was really vocal and giving me great support out there in the final two laps and it really was a great turnout considering the unfavourable weather.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE, with a team mirroring today’s, will line up in their final race of the Australian summer at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour from Wednesday where Clarke returns as the defending champion.