Breakthrough season for 26-year-old Australian
Vuelta a España mountain classification winner Simon Clarke has signed a two-year extension on his current contract with Orica-GreenEdge. The new deal will see the 26-year-old ride with the Australian team through until the end of 2015.
Clarke has come off the best season of his career, becoming only the second Australian to win a mountains classification in a Grand Tour, something he was able to achieve off the back of his stage 4 victory. The competition went down to the wire with Clarke holding a two-point margin over his rivals for the polka dot jersey heading into la Vuelta's penultimate stage, 170.7km from La Faisanera to Bola del Mundo where points would be up for grabs in the classification for the final time. Clarke made it into the 20-man breakaway and went on the attack, earning himself the prize for the stage's most combative rider.
Other performances of note for Clarke included his second overall at the Glava Tour of Norway, following two second places, a runner-up placing at the Rogaland GP and fifth overall at Tour du Haut-Var.
"Being Aussie in an Aussie team is a dream come true," said Clarke. "I think I made a big step up this year, and in part, that's because of the support I've received from this team. To have the chance to stay here for at least another three years is perfect for me."
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.
"When I turned pro, I had some trouble with teams folding or being unreliable," explained Clarke. "One night, I was speaking to Shayne [Bannan] about my struggles over dinner. He said ‘Stick it out one more year. After that, we'll be able to look after you and you'll have a great career.' Having Shayne give me those words of confidence reminded me of the support I have behind me."
General manager Bannan said that he was hopeful that the results of 2012 were just a sign of what's to come from the former national under 23 champion.
"Simon has had a real breakthrough with us this year, and we're thrilled to prolong his contract," he said. "He's gone from being a big talent on the cusp to taking a jersey in one of the Grand Tours, and we know he's only shown some of his potential. He's been a great asset to the team, and we look forward to supporting his development even further in coming years."
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