Simon Clarke has claimed the overall victory at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in unusual circumstances after the final Queen stage of the five day tour was cancelled due to extreme fire danger in the region.
With his stage win in Bendigo on Thursday, Clarke had built up a lead of 8” over Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) in second place and a comfortable 1’22 advantage over the riders thought to be general classification contenders. All classification results earned following yesterday’s stage three became the final overall results.
“Everyone is happy with the week of racing here and the win,” said Clarke. “The guys did a great job and worked really hard for me this week. We were confident going in to today’s stage that we would be able to defend the overall, but like in any bike race, anything can happen. We were up for the challenge, and it was a shame that we didn’t get a chance to do that.”
“It’s unfortunate for the organisers that the last stage was cancelled today, but we are still really happy to have won the overall here,” Clark added. “I’m looking forward to having this win on my palmarès.”
A great show of teamwork throughout the week saw Clarke claw his way back up the overall and into the leader’s jersey after he lost time to GC threat Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) on stage one in Ballarat. Clarke spent a gruelling day in the breakaway on stage two to claim the stage win and a comfortable margin atop the overall classification. The team looked forward to defending that lead all the way to finish line at Arthur’s Seat today.
“It’s a bittersweet result for the team,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “The guys all rode so well this week- Clarkey especially. It’s a shame he didn’t get to finish the race in its entirety because he deserved the win and he deserved to have his moment. This isn’t the way you want to win a race, but it was well earned over the course of the week and he would have been hard to beat today. We are extremely happy to come away with the overall win.”
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour victory is ORICA-GreenEDGE’s second general classification win on home soil, following last month’s Santos Tour Down Under win. It is also the third time in as many weeks that the GreenEDGE family has won the team classification (Tour Down Under, Ladies Tour of Qatar, Herald Sun Tour). The Australian outfit is once again buoyed by the exemplary teamwork that paved the way to this victory.
“It has been a fantastic week for the team,” said Wilson. “Everyone committed completely to the team’s goals and to Clarkey, and I can’t praise their efforts enough. Stage two in particular was a great performance by all of the guys, to come from so far back and put Clarkey into such a winning position was very impressive.”
It is the first time in the 61 year history of this event that a stage has been cancelled under such circumstances. Emergency services crews on hand at the race were called away to fire threatened areas of the region, and couldn’t guarantee the safety of the event if it went ahead. With up to 6,000 spectators expected to line the roads to Arthur’s Seat for today’s stage, the safety of the crowds and the riders was the priority.
“There is dry grass lining the climb the whole way up, and with such high temperatures and winds, we were told that fire would have engulfed the climb in less than five minutes,” explained Wilson. “We are disappointed not to get to race today, but we completely support the decision that was made. When you consider the possible danger, there really was no option.”
“This is just a bike race, at the end of the day,” Wilson said. “Our thoughts are with the Victorian people that are battling and facing the threat of bushfires at the moment.”