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Australian Simon Clarke is making his Astana debut
Bannan says former Australian under 23 champion "can deliver"
Clarke has an established relationship with GreenEdge General Manager Shayne Bannan having spent six years at the Australian Institute of Sport and the 25-year-old explained that joining the project which is currently applying for a UCI ProTour licence was an "opportunity that couldn't be missed."
"The launch of this team has been a dream and a work in progress for Shayne for the last 20-years and having been part of his development program in the past, it's going to be great to be part of this dream coming true," he said.
"It's also a great honour to be part of a groundbreaking Australian team."
Clarke joined Astana for the 2011 season after his plans to join Cervelo Test Team fell through with its collapse. Racing in Belgium for only the second time in his career, Clarke's debut at the Tour of Flanders showed some really promising signs. Clarke was able to anticipate the jockeying for position on the Oude Kwaremont and made a daring move before the peloton hit the climb. He was joined by eventual second-place-getter Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep) and quickly found himself in the lead group on the road.
While he ultimately finished 70th, it's efforts like that, that give him hope of more impressive performances in the spring with GreenEdge.
"Next year I hope to be able to be competitive in the big one day races, particularly the Ardennes classics, and to gain the experience of the Grand Tours – Italy, France or Spain," Clarke said.
Announced as part of the long list named Tuesday for the 2011 UCI Road World Championships, Bannan made mention of Clarke's turn at the 2009 worlds in the media statement announcing the Victorian's recruitment.
"At the 2009 UCI Road World Championships Simon was one of the guys with the job of protecting our team leaders, Cadel Evans and Simon Gerrans, and did a great job at such a young age in one of the hardest world championships in recent memory," Bannan said.
"There were a couple of times we thought he was done but then appeared at the front of the peloton with fresh water bottles for our leaders, with Cadel eventually winning the race and Simon finishing tenth. It's the sort of fighting spirit we want in the team and know he can deliver."