Riding for the Uni-SA - Australia composite team, the Tasmanian bounced back from the disappointment of missing the cut during the Leopard - Trek - RadioShack merger with the biggest win of his career, Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under in a memorable 80 kilometre solo breakaway at Stirling. Since then, the 27-year-old told Cyclingnews that it's been a bit of a struggle with Champion System racing across three continents.
"My season started really well with my win in the TDU, since then I have not had the best year. I have struggled to find my rhythm again with all the travelling," Clarke explained. "I have not lost anything I just need to find my rhythm again and I will be back and I will get results."
Ever the optimist, Clarke having raced so far in Australia, Qatar, Oman, Europe, Japan, USA, Canada and China said that travelling in Japan after winning the opening stage of the Tour of Japan, proved a highlight.
"We had some spare time and visited the temples in Kyoto; I liked the culture and food."
For the past week, Clarke and his Champion System teammates have been based in Utah in preparation for the 885km UCI 2.1-rated Tour of Utah which gets underway on Tuesday. A race for climbers, and not really suited to Clarke's 192-centimetre, 80-kilo frame, he will be on the lookout for the breakaway opportunities which have become a trademark throughout his career.
"I'm also looking forward to the team time trial and seeing what we can do there," he said.
While it is difficult for first-year teams to be granted their race invite wish-list, it was a tough one for the Champion System squad to miss out on the invite to the Tour of California in May where it had been hoped Craig Lewis and Chris Butler could shine on home turf. Utah and the following race, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado presents the team with an opportunity.
"We will be looking to prove a point for sure, we have some solid climbers for the races in Cameron Wurf and Chris Butler," Clarke explained. "And a couple of our Chinese riders live at altitude so it should suit them too."
Unsure of his next race, Clarke could be on the move again should he not race in Colorado, back to Europe with events in France and Belgium where he believes he is better suited. Adding to his motivation over the next few months is the fact that Clarke only signed on for a one-year deal with Champion System.
"I want to race mainly in Europe because I think that will be best for my development," he admitted with his racing future undecided. "I'm just going to wait and see and assess some options."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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