RACE: Giro d’Italia stage six, Naples > Naples
DATE: Thursday 11 May
Eighty-ninth, same time as the winner. The results from the Giro d’Italia’s sixth stage in 2023 will never come close to representing what Simon Clarke went through on the roads in and around the historic city of Naples.
Clarke’s place in team history is secure, having claimed the team’s first Tour de France stage victory in 2022. Nonetheless, for a couple of hours at least on 11 May, another momentous day looked to be on the cards for the man from Victoria.
He and breakaway companion Alessandro De Marchi led the peloton by 40 seconds as they moved to within four kilometres of the finish line on the Via Caracciolo.
Having initially been part of the day’s six-rider escape group, the pair distanced everybody else on the Picco Sant’Angelo climb with some 70 kilometres of relatively pleasant terrain running parallel to the Bay of Naples remaining.
Tipped to be a day for the sprinters, the pendulum continued to swing back and forth. Forty kilometres to go, 2:30 gap, advantage peloton. Twenty kilometres to go, 1:35 gap, touch and go. Seven kilometres to go, 0:50 gap, advantage breakaway.
The outcome, then, could not have been crueller. With a little over 200 metres remaining, Fernando Gaviria was the first rider to sprint past Clarke and De Marchi. Then Mads Pedersen surged past, then Jonathan Milan, then another 84 riders.
The duo consoled each other as they both approached and passed the finish line, the photos of which quickly went viral on social media.
“It’s not nice to lose in that way, getting caught so close,” said Clarke. “I would have preferred to be caught with 10 kilometres to go than 200 metres. We needed 10 to 15 more seconds. It was just the way it was. You can’t win them all but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”