'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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Tom Thewlis
Tom Thewlis

Tom is a Digital News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly. 

Before joining the Cycling Weekly team, he worked at Oxford Brookes University, most recently in the Internal Communications team. An avid cycling follower with a keen interest in racing, his writing previously featured on Casquettes and Bidons.