By Kirsten Robbins
Australian sprinter Hilton Clarke will join the ProTour ranks alongside his former Toyota-United teammate Ivan Dominguez at Fuji-Servetto in 2009. Karen Bliss, director of marketing and sponsorship at Fuji Bikes, confirmed with Cyclingnews that both sprinters will join the team at the top of their game, having won races for nearly a decade.
"We just signed Hilton Clarke," said Bliss noting that he is the second Australian to join the squad, next to former Rabobank rider William Walker. "That was an Ivan Dominguez connection and we are very happy to have him. He's English speaking and a great addition for us. Our Australian distributors are thrilled too."
Fuji Bikes has had a long-standing relationship with Dominguez and Clarke, who have competed on its frames for the past three seasons. Combined, the sprinters have won more than 100 of the most prestigious events held in the United States of America, such as stages of the Tour of California and Missouri, along with events of the Triple Crown series held in Philadelphia.
"They are awesome and have been great representatives for us," said Bliss. "Dominguez is super professional and an incredible athlete and a winner. Gianetti is really great, a good marketer and sensitive to his sponsors. Being an American sponsor we wanted to have riders who have raced here."
The squad will meet at the end of December for the first time at a preliminary training camp held in Italy. It will be the first opportunity for the European riders to test their sponsored Fuji SL1 road bikes and Fuji D6 Professional time trial bikes, according to Bliss. They will start the 2009 season at the Tour Down Under held January 18-25 in Adelaide, Australia.
"The team will ride the SL1, which is the same frame that Toyota-United rode and that Tyler Hamilton won the US national championships on this year," Bliss said. "It's too late for special team graphics so for the training camp, they'll have plain bikes and we'll supply them bikes with team graphics at a later date."
Clarke is the 22nd rider to join Fuji-Servetto's roster. His teammates include Dominguez and Walker along with José Alberto Benítez, Iker Camaño, David Cañada, Eros Capecchi,Ermanno Capelli, Juan José Cobo, David De La Fuente, Jesús Del Nero, Arkaitz Durán, Alberto Fernández De La Puebla, Ángel Gómez Gómez, Héctor González, Beñat Intxausti, Josep Jufré, Javier Mejías, Daniele Nardello, Ricardo Serrano, Andrea Tonti, Davide Viganò.