Will Clarke (Champion System) surprised many with his strength on the hilly Buninyong course this weekend at the Mars Cycling Australia elite men's road race. Clarke's nearly two-meter frame is not exactly suited to climbing, but he showed no shortage of wattage as he powered around the 10.1 kilometre circuit.
The display earned him fifth place on the day and the sprint classification, but perhaps more importantly gave him a coveted selection in this year's UniSA-Australia team for the Tour Down Under. Clarke admits that he had aspired to make the squad with a good result, but found it tough going as a lone rider against the GreenEdge armada.
"It was hard to know which guys to follow," said Clarke. "But after a while you figured out who were the stronger guys, who it was worth following, and that made it a lot easier.
Having ridden last year with the Leopard-Trek squad, Clarke looked like a changed rider in comparison to his nationals performance just 12 months ago when he finished way out of the picture in 30th. He explained that though it had been a hard year and a lot of race days with the team, he'd certainly learned a lot and was feeling confident ahead of the Tour Down Under.
"Coming from Genesys the year before and riding in Australia, to going to Europe and seeing how they do it over there, I think it's made me a lot stronger and it was a great experience for me. I'm going a lot better this year versus last year, so hopefully I can go well at the Tour Down Under as well."
And on the mess that occurred after the disbanding of the Leopard-Trek team in September Clarke remained positive.
"There were 10 or so of us who were unlucky to be let go, we all found out a bit late. But I was lucky to find a ride with Champion System who have put together a really good program. So that's something to look forward to."
Watch the full video interview below