Simon Clarke is coming to the end of his contract with Orica-GreenEdge and it has recently been confirmed that he will leave the team at the end of this season, though it is not yet certain where he will go. Cyclingnews caught up with the 29-year-old at the Tour de Pologne to get the latest on the situation and to discuss the factors at play as he looks to make the next step in his career.
Cyclingnews: Firstly, you’ve been linked with BMC, and your agent recently told us you haven’t signed anything for next year. Can you tell us about how things stand?
Simon Clarke: There’s no agreement at all with BMC. That was an untrue rumour that was going around so it was good to clarify that. We’re in negotiations with various teams and hopefully I can find an appropriate solution sooner rather than later. I need to weigh up the official possibilities that come through. We’ve got negotiations going on but until we can sit down and assess them all properly I can't make a decision.
CN: What are the considerations for you in looking for a team?
SC: I’d be looking at a similarly minded team to GreenEdge. I’m not leaving because I don’t like it here – I’ve really enjoyed the four years I’ve had here. Basically I’m looking for a fresh environment and a fresh start. I think it’s important in cycling to keep challenging yourself and as soon as you feel a little bit too comfortable in a particular situation, maybe its time to make a change, keep that hunger and keep pushing yourself. I’m at the stage in my career now when I really need to do that and I feel that can be best done in a new team environment.
CN: One where you have more opportunities?
SC: Yeah. Not that I don’t have enough opportunities here but just a new environment, a new group of people, new motivation. Sometimes a change is good to try and spur you on, for me personally to try and reach another level in my cycling and a higher quality as well as a new experience.
CN: What sort of races would you be targeting to reach that next level?
SC: To be honest I’m happy with the races I’ve been doing. I’ve done the Giro this year, I really like focusing on the Ardennes – they’re probably my favourite races. So just to try and improve there and eventually get some results in the Ardennes.
CN: Did you consider extending with Orica or has it been clear for a while you want to leave?
SC: We definitely spoke with GreenEdge – we didn’t just rule it out immediately. GreenEdge are making quite a few changes for next year. I’m not the only one who will be leaving the team. They’ve got some ideas on where they want to take the team in the future, and to do that they need to sign specific riders to achieve their goals, and to sign specific riders they need to let other ones go. They’re trying to reach a different level in their ambitions and I suppose that arrived at the time where it was time for me to consider making a move.
CN: Can you tell us more about the direction in which they’re heading?
SC: It basically revolves around the Yates boys going so strong, and they’re only second year pros. Last week we saw Adam win San Sebastián, and Simon has been knocking on the door as well. They’re looking for some more climbing support to support those guys and to get more climbing support they need to let other riders go. They’ve got a juggle on their hands and will also want to build up more of a lead-out for Caleb [Ewan].
GreenEdge has a long-term project for general classification. As far as I know they’re not so interested in purchasing an instant GC rider. They’re really focused on developing the Yates brothers and the young talent they sourced themselves and really try to grow them into their own GC riders. I think they’re doing a great job with that. We will see the results sooner rather than later, they’re both two super talents and a couple more years time they’ll be doing big things.
CN: So it wasn’t the right fit for you to slot into that support team?
SC: Possibly, but whether I wanted to or not, or whether they thought that I was the best one to fit that spot, who knows. We decided that maybe it was time for a change, not only because of this particular point, but also the whole situation with the opportunities out there, and where the team’s wanting to focus in the future, it was time for me to make a change.