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Simon Clarke has had a whirlwind month.
Clarke was on the brink of retirement just a few weeks ago following the collapse of the Qhubeka-NextHash squad. Flash forward to Wednesday, and he was duking it out at the Trofeo Calvia following a late reprieve from Israel-Premier Tech.
The 35-year-old was part of the chasing group behind eventual race winner Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) and sprinted home for fifth — ahead of Alejandro Valverde and others — repayment for those hard miles during an uncertain period.
“Three weeks ago, I didn’t even have a team. I was at home in Australia with my head down, training hard, praying that I would get an opportunity,” Clarke said. “I just wanted to be ready if I did get the chance to prove to whoever decided to take me on that I could deliver straight away and that I was ready to go.”
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Clarke was one of several riders left in the lurch when Qhubeka-NextHash closed its doors at the end of December after a fruitless search for new sponsors.
The Australian had remained loyal to the squad as it hoped to remain in operation for 2022, but it would leave him without a team as the new year rolled in.
With few spots remaining, Clarke was up against it. However, he was confirmed as the 31st rider on the Israel-Premier Tech roster just two weeks ago.
There has been little time for Clarke to catch his breath, and he felt the effort toward the end, but he was happy to be in amongst it once again.
“We had a really good camp with some really solid training and so I knew that this was going to profit straight-away in these first races. Having only finished the training camp last Friday, I went home and rested well and knew that the work we’d done there was going to pay straight away,” he said.
“I was riding the first 20, 30 kilometers enjoying it, enjoying being back in the bunch, just appreciative of the opportunity that Israel-Premier Tech has provided me to continue with my profession. Later on, it was just about executing the race correctly and trying to read the winning move. Fortunately, I got that right and made the front split.
“Although I contributed to the chase. I had my mind on getting ready for the sprint. Unfortunately, in the last 20-25km I was having some cramps which affected me a little bit in the final, which was not ideal, but I just tried to block that out and do the best sprint I could.”
The Trofeo Calvia is part of the five-day Mallorca Challenge, a series of one-day races on the Spanish island. With sprinting the focus for Thursday’s race, Clarke will enjoy a rest day before competing again Friday and Saturday.