Tasmanian cyclist Nathan Clarke threatens to cause an upset in the 2008 Timbercorp Tour of the Murray River and prove that to be good you don't have to be a full-time professional.
Thirty-year-old Clarke, works 40 hours a week in his father's painting business at Latrobe on Tasmania's North West Coast and struggles to ride more than 400 kilometres a week in training. Most young cyclists in national and state institutes of sport teams train over a minimum of 1000 kilometres weekly.
Clarke starts work at 7.00am each day and it is usually about 5.15pm before he hits the roads around his home town. Most of his training is done in the dark. Despite the limitations on his training capacity, he is returning to some of the best results of his career.
He won the criterium championship and a stage of the recent Lakes Oil Tour of Gippsland and was prominent throughout the three days of the Australian Cycling Grand Prix at Ballarat last weekend.
These performances have propelled Clarke into fourth position in the Scody Cup, Australia's most important road cycling series.
Clarke has accumulated 73 points from the Tour of Gippsland and Ballarat Grand Prix – only nine points behind joint leaders – Geelong's Leigh Howard and fellow Tasmanian Bernard Sulzberger.
"I am surprised to be in such a prominent position and I reckon I've got a really good chance of winning the Tour of the Murray" Clarke said. "I've ridden this event about five times before and it is a great race. I guess I like it so much because there aren't any serious hills, although I have been climbing pretty well".
Clarke took up cycling at the age of fourteen. His most important victory was in Belgium in 2002 when he won the prestigious Gent-Eiger Classic which carried a 1.1 ranking on the international Cycling Union's calendar.
His performance caught the attention of several European trade teams but he chose to return to Tasmania and resume work in his father Dennis' business.
Clarke finished second in the 1999 Tour of the Murray River to Queenslander Cameron Hughes and looks to be in the same form. The eight-day tour, which starts in Echuca on August 31 and ends in Mildura on September 7, suits Clarke's powerful riding style in big bunch stage finishes.