UniSA-Australia captain Simon Clarke epitomised the team's philosophy at the Tour Down Under yesterday when he initiated a breakaway with ProTour stars such as Karsten Kroon and Jens Voigt some 70km into the 132km stage from Unley to Stirling.
The move ignited a hectic finale - two tough laps around the leafy town in the Adelaide Hills - which featured some dominant riding from Alejandro Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team and a stage win for Footon-Servetto-Fuji rider Manuel Cardoso.
It was the third breakaway featuring one of the team members following Tim Roe's superb effort during the first day and David Kemp's heroics on the road to Hahndorf, both undertaken with two other riders.
Clarke reaped the rewards of his toil with the most aggressive rider's jersey and a chance to demonstrate his attacking qualities ahead of another European campaign riding for Italian Professional Continental squad ISD.
"I knew how hard the start was," Clarke said of yesterday's stage. "You can try as hard as you want, but there is no break that is going on that expressway. I would have put my house on it."
After some early moves had tried to make an impact on the stage, UniSA-Australia team manager Dave Sanders was on the radio with a message, "Boys, we're here for the EB's [early breaks], do something about it," recalled Clarke.
Jonathan Cantwell and Rohan Dennis responded soon after, joining a move with another Australian, Française des Jeux's Wes Sulzberger. "Columbia didn't really rate that, funnily enough," said Clarke. "So they hit the panic button and Bert Grabsch hit a couple of NOS buttons and brought them back on his own, which was impressive."
In doing that, the other two riders who had previously broken away were returned to the peloton, the perfect time for Clarke to launch his own attack. "Everyone was taking a deep breath and I thought, 'I'm onto you guys,' so Bang! Off I went... I saw there was a wheel that came across and then he rode past and it was Karsten Kroon - I thought, 'Not a bad bloke to be chopping off with for the next 70k, we can work with this'."
Soon after the pair was joined by Jack Bobridge, Saxo Bank's Jen Voigt and Liquigas rider Maciej Paterski, the quintet riding towards Stirling and gaining almost 90 seconds. Upon entering the town and beginning the first circuit around it, Voigt, Kroon and Paterski began to suffer from the high temperatures and dropped back to the peloton.
From there it was a matter of surviving for as long as possible, riding with Bobridge and Omega Pharma-Lotto's Matt Lloyd, who rode across to the pair as the second lap approached. The break was doomed but for Clarke it was a satisfying day and another successful stint off the front of the peloton for UniSA-Australia.
Clarke explained that the secret to maximising the chances of succeeding in a break lies with simple things such as eating and drinking enough, especially in hot conditions. "I drank a heap, kept myself cool and kept having gels - they're not ideal but as long as you're eating something," he said.
The Victorian has also been playing the faithful teammate, having ridden Tim Roe back to the bunch when he punctured before Checker Hill on stage two. He also explained that today's stage to Goolwa will be spent mostly in the bunch but there's the chance that stage five, that includes two ascents of Old Willunga Hill, may hold more opportunities for UniSA-Australia.
"On Saturday I'll be looking for opportunities to get into a break because the stage to Goolwa is definitely a sprinter's day," he said. "I said to the boys this week that stage three and stage five are the two chances where breaks are going to stick. On the other days have a go, but it'll be tough.
"Ahead of stage three I said in the meeting that I wanted to get in the break - obviously it wasn't a standard breakaway day where something goes from the gun but that was because of the start."
Clarke then gave us a pointer on what to look for if a breakaway is to be successful: "If you can just be a bit clever and save a bit of energy when they're all trying to attack while the bunch is doing 75km/h on a false flat downhill, it's pretty smart. You have to find the right place to take your shot - in Italian it's called, 'Punto giusto', the 'Right point'."
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