Simon Clarke stood on the podium at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race for the second time in his career after sprinting to third place to wrap up his Australian season in the best way possible. Clarke was joined in the top-five by Corbin Strong to make it a brilliant day for IPT at the WorldTour race.
The one-day race clearly suits Clarke, who finished in second place in his only other participation in 2015, to give him a “100% podium success rate” as Clarke so aptly said.
“Tour Down Under was a disappointing result from the team’s point of view because it didn’t reflect how well we rode and how strong everyone was. So, as a group, we were super motivated for today to justify the quality of the team we had here and how well we worked together. I think the fact we were two in the top-five is exactly where we deserved to be today,” explained Clarke.
“It was a good day for the team. Today was a tricky race with a lot of wind influencing the race, particularly a headwind up the climb so it was hard for the climbers to make a difference, and then the headwind after we turned right after the finish line really shut the race down as you saw on tv. Any breakaways got reeled back on that straight because you had to use too much energy to stay away.”
In the end, it came down to a combination of saving energy and strength in numbers.
“I just tried to stay hidden and save myself and stick to the team plan which was to save myself and Corbin to go deep in the race. Even on the final lap, I was there around the front but I was really conscious of not spending any extra energy up the last climb because I knew that it was going to be some kind of bunch sprint. The plan was for Corbin and I to stick together in the finish but we kind of lost each other and in the end, we both sprinted. I’m quite surprised to come third in the end but really happy, as it’s also some great points for the team,” said Clarke
A solo breakaway made for a quiet first half of racing and although the race picked up on the local laps, with multiple splits in the peloton on each lap, the stage was set for a bunch sprint when the last attack was caught inside the final kilometer. In the chaos of the finale, IPT had two cards to play with both Clarke and Strong in a position to sprint behind Marius Mayrhofer (Team DSM) who took the win.
For Sports Director Sam Bewley, who made his DS debut for IPT in Australia, today’s result was a fitting reward for the team’s hard work over the last month in Australia.
“I’m really proud of the guys today,” said Bewley. “I think we deserved more at Tour Down Under but circumstances meant we didn’t get that. But the way the guys rallied this weekend was great. We had such a good team and they knew that we could get a good result here. Our goal was a podium and we did that with third with Clarkey and fifth with Corbin so I’m really happy to close out the Australian campaign like this and really proud of the guys and everyone else. Our goal was to have numbers on the last lap. To do that sometimes you have to take a few risks and we did take a few risks at times and it was maybe a bit nervous. But I was happy to stick to the plan because if you have numbers in the final, it can go your way and we had four guys in a group of 30.”