Simon Clarke Spends Stage Six of Paris-Nice in Early BreakSun 10 Mar 2013
Simon Clarke featured in the early break on the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice before Michael Albasini animated the finale. The stage six parcours included five categorised climbs over 220 kilometres. Although not quite the desired outcome, ORICA-GreenEDGE’s race unfolded according to plan.
“Everyone knew that today was the best chance for the breakaway to arrive all the way to the finish,” explained Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “We thought Simon was our best option from an escape group.”
Egor Silin (Astana) slipped away from the bunch on the opening climb, 6.5 kilometres into the stage. Silin was soon joined by Eduard Vorganov (Katusha). Nine riders bridged across ahead of the climb's summit. The 11 rider escape group included the two Russians, Clarke, Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), Julien El Fares (Sojasun) Borut Bozic (Astana), Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and polka-dot jersey wearer Johann Tschopp (IAM).
The 11 riders never surpassed the three minute mark. Jeannesson, who started the day in 20th overall at 1:49, proved a problematic breakmate.
“With a few riders still in contention on the overall, the break didn’t work,” said Lapage. “I was happy to see Simon get in the move as planned. Also, this is another step for him in his return to racing after some health issues he dealt with earlier in the season.”
The break splintered over the first of the two concluding category one mountains. Clarke was one of the six surviving breakaway riders over the fifth and final climb of stage six. With 71.5 kilometres remaining, the break had slightly under two minutes on the Team Sky and BMC-led bunch.
Just inside the final hour of racing, the peloton overtook Clarke and his breakaway companions. A 60-strong bunch sped towards the finish.
“We had Alba [Michael Albasini] and Clarkey in the front group,” noted Lapage. “After a hard race like this, we know that Alba can be one of the fastest guys in the finish. Simon stayed with to put him in a good position for the finale.”
As the final kilometre loomed, Albasini lurked near the front the of the bunch. As the sprint wound up, he jumped from the pack only to be overtaken in the closing metres. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma – QuickStep) took the stage win as Richie Porte finished in the front group to successfully defend his yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow’s closing time trial. Albasini was the top finisher for ORICA-GreenEDGE in 19th place.
“Albasini was missing the legs at the finish for a top result, but our plan worked well today,” said Lapage. “I consider it a good day of racing by the team.”