For a rider racing in Belgium for only the second time in his career, Simon Clarke's first crack at the Tour of Flanders showed some really promising signs. Clarke was able to anticipate the jockeying for position on the Oude Kwaremont and made a daring move before the peloton hit the climb.
Speaking to SBS television the Astana rider was encouraged by his performance and felt he did all he could to hang on in the finale.
"When I saw Chavanel come across the gap I thought 'this guy means business', because I knew that he was one of the key cards Quickstep had to play."
"There are 18 climbs and I was just counting them down to one. The further I made it the better – once you start worrying about trying to arrive at 258km – that's when you have problems".
Fatigue played it's role and Clarke ultimately finished in 70th place, 12:37 off Nuyens' time, but the young Australian is quickly finding his feet in the ProTour having moved over from Team ISD-Neri last year. He's already had a number of encouraging results earlier in the season and will be looking to keep his form going into the hillier spring races at the end of April.
"I haven't done many of these big ProTour races because last year when I was with [ISD-Neri] I was racing a lot in Italy. I'm just enjoying every minute of being part of the big ProTour events."
Looking forward to this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, Clarke was in two minds about his approach.
"If you look at the most of the guys in the race today who were in the front group, they're a lot bigger than I am. [So] on the climbs I actually felt really good - it was just those flat cobbled sections that really killed me. I either need to work on the flat cobbles or start choosing some hillier races."
With Sunday's race featuring a myriad of flat cobbled sections favouring the traditional rouleurs, Clarke will likely have his work cut out.
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