Clarke continues World Tour progress in Portugal

Having begun his World Tour adventure at last month's Santos Tour Down Under, Leopard-Trek rider Will Clarke is aiming at a possible start in the year's biggest Classics if his early-season form reaches the right level.

The 25-year-old started the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal yesterday, although it wasn't the perfect start, finishing the opening stage in 151st and 3:18 behind winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).

Leopard-Trek has taken an all-round squad to the event, with Fabian Wegmann, Oliver Zaugg, Brice Feillu, Linus Gerdemann and Robert Wagner looking after general classification, climbing and sprinting duties.

And given his current place on general classifiation, it provides the Australian with a chance to do what he has set out to do in Portugal - try his luck and 'fly under the radar'. With the teammates he has in Algarve, he's certainly a candidate to be the outfit's wildcard.

"I'll have a crack - it's five stages, similar to the Tour Down Under but they're a little bit longer and there's a time trial at the end. That's what will sort out that race," Clarke told Cyclingnews.

Clarke finished the Tour Down Under in 104th on general classification and said the race was "a bit of an eye-opener but a really good experience". It's the Classics on which he is focusing his energies however, and the Volta ao Algarve is part of the plan for March and April.

"I'm doing some of the semi-Classics, so I think they're going to start me in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and races like that then see how I go; whether I start in the bigger ones such as Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix," Clarke explained.

"It'd be cool to get a start in them but I'm a reserve at the moment, so I've got to show my stuff first."

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