Australian secures mountains classification at Vuelta a España
Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) created history on Saturday becoming the second Australian in history to win a mountains classification in a grand tour, when he secured the jersey on stage 20 of the Vuelta a España.
Countryman Matthew Lloyd previously won the mountains classification at the Giro d'Italia in 2010.
Clarke, 26, held 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.
"It went better than expected," Clarke said following the stage. "I needed luck to get all possible points in the mountain climbs."
The stars aligned for Clarke and he took maximum points on the first three climbs to wrap up the competition.
"I took advantage of every opportunity I had," he continued. "I was very nervous about trying going into the break, because it had been so difficult to form in other stages. I thought it was going to be almost impossible."
Clarke, riding in his grand tour debut and having won Stage 4 earlier, was focused only on his own race but admitted he kept it in the back of his mind that Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) would collect points at the finish.
"Ultimately, the strategy worked, but it was a great effort," Clarke said. "I am not a climber, I'm an opportunist and I had to use every opportunity I could."