After a brilliant start to the Giro d’Italia, Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after stage 10. When Clarke saw Team Sky’s Richie Porte in trouble due to a late puncture, he decided to lend him a hand – or a wheel, as it were. It was a gesture of friendship but contravened the UCI regulations and saw both riders handed a CHF200 fine and a two-minute penalty.
“I just saw him there, he needed a front wheel and I was there as a mate and I helped him out,” Clarke told the team in a behind the scenes video. “The jury’s applied their own interpretation of the rule and gave him a two-minute penalty and I suppose everyone’s going to make up their own opinion on that. We’re all good mates with Richie and I’m sure he’s going to do everything he can to make that time back.”
Situated back in the convoy, the Orica-GreenEdge team were unaware of what was unfolding and arrived to find Clarke on the side of the road with one wheel on his wagon. It wasn’t until they got into Forlì that they understood the full situation. Directeur sportif Matt White was pragmatic about the penalty and defended Clarke’s decision to stop.
“We’re car 10 so when we arrived at the scene there was Clarkey waiting for a wheel. We didn’t know what had happened until after the finish,” White told Cyclingnews ahead of stage 11. “It was a spur of the moment decision from Clarkey who thought that he could help out a friend. The decision from the commissaires to give those time penalties, that’s up to them because they’re here to adjudicate our sport and it's their interpretation of the rule as they saw it.”
Clarke was already 38 minutes down in the overall classification going into the stage and the extra two minutes will have little impact on him. However, the same can’t be said for Porte who now languishes outside of the top 10. The penalty could be a fatal blow to Porte’s overall hopes but White is confident that his fellow Australian can close the gap to the maglia rosa.
“Richie is in very good shape at the moment. It’s obviously not ideal for Richie to lose time yesterday but at the end of the day he’s still one of the favourites,” said White. “In the next 10 stages there are a lot of stages to make up time and I wish him all the best.”
Orica-GreenEdge had already decided not to contest the sprint and, instead, save themselves for the lumpier stage 11 to Imola. The team have already won two stages and seen three of their riders wear the maglia rosa. Stage 3 winner Michael Matthews is the likely their best shot at stage success but White was reluctant to confirm their intentions.
“I’m not going to tell you our tactics because it’s going to be in the media before the stage has finished,” White laughed.
“The guys are doing great. It’s a very hard stage, the guys have got a plan for today and we’re going on the hunt for stage victories again.”
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