'I just come out at every race swinging': Simon Clarke achieves childhood dream with Tour de France stage win after winter of contract fears

Australian was without a team coming into the season

Simon Clarke
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In an incredible day of drama at the Tour de France stage five, the emotion was on display at the finish line. Simon Clarke (Israel-PremierTech) won a frenetic sprint ahead of Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) to secure his first-ever Tour de France stage win.

The Australian rider had endured a winter of not knowing whether he would have a team for the 2022 season. Clarke was part of the Team-Qhubeka setup when they left the World Tour and didn’t know whether a contract would come from elsewhere. 

“He’s half-man half Jack Russell! He’s a terrier!” said Robbie McEwen in his race hilariously accurate analysis on Eurosport.

Following the race, an emotional Clarke said: “Yeah, after the winter I had no team to then have Israel ring me up and say yes, we’ll give you that chance. It just gave me such a reality check to make the most of every opportunity you know. I think you’ll have seen already that I just come out at every race swinging, I try to make the most of every opportunity.” 

Clarke added: “It was a long sprint. I just said to myself you just have to not panic and be as cold as you can." 

Dissecting the race, he expained: "Even when Powless [who moved up 23 places on the general standings after the stage] attacked… he got a gap and I thought maybe that’s the move, but fortunately Edvald decided to chase him down and I managed to slipstream him and bide for some time. 

"Then Taco came over, already at 350, and I thought now is my chance. I let him pass and went behind him, waited and waited, and went for the line at the last minute," the soon-to-be 36-year-old said,

Clarke knew that behind them, chaos was unfolding. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) were hot in pursuit and the Aussie feared they would be caught. 

Commenting on the race dynamics, he told reporters: “We had info that they had a gap, but as we’ve seen in many Roubaix editions, in the final KMs of Roubaix it’s very difficult to close the gap, even a 10-15 second gap in such a challenging stage. I had info they were coming, but they were going to have to ride super fast. Fortunately, we had enough to go to the line.” 

Simon Clarke

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Behind the breakaway, it was looking to be a day full of disaster for Jumbo-Visma. 24 hours previously Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) had stormed to victory but today their gains were rapidly slipping. 

Earlier on in the stage Jonas Vingegaard suffered a mechanical and after two bike changes, struggled to get back in touch with the main field. Meanwhile further ahead, disaster struck for  Primož Roglič as a hay bale slipped from the side of the road bringing him down along with Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal). 

In the dramatic finale, Wout Van Aert managed to pull Vingegaard back into contention ensuring Jumbo-Visma kept two riders inside the top 10 overall. But Primož Roglič was nowhere to be seen and reportedly suffered a dislocated shoulder in the incident. 

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