Will Clarke of Uni-SA is the surprise winner of Stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under, attacking early and staying away to win by more than a minute from a chasing peloton led by Rabobank’s Michael Matthews and GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans. Martin Kohler of BMC Racing is the new overall leader.
The 26-year-old Clarke and Kohler had gone off the front of the peloton early on in the 148km stage from Lobethal to Stirling as the race headed through the Adelaide Hills in cooler temperatures than those experienced on yesterday’s opening stage.
"This is unbelievable really," said Clarke afterwards. "This is the biggest win of my career. It's my first win in the WorldTour. I knew my form was good."
The Tasmanian only took up cycling four years ago after injury forced the Olympic athlete to give up on his career as a 400m and 800m runner, and last year rode with Leopard Trek.
At one point the pair had established a lead of 11 minutes over the peloton before the Swiss rider Kohler, who had picked up enough bonus seconds to take over from André Greipe at the top of the general classification, dropped back.
That left Clarke, who had started the day 1 minute 50 seconds behind Greipel, on his own, and he managed to hang on for a fine solo victory.
"He [Kohler] probably thought it was not worth keeping going but the peloton gave me more time and I thought 'you guys have to chase me hard to catch me'," reflected Clarke.
"I was dying in the last ten kilometres. It's amazing that a breakaway rider can stay away for so long. It's sort of my speciality to keep going."
Besides the stage win, Clarke also has the reward of leading the sprints and mountain classifications.
The new overall leader, Kohler, had been involved in a breakaway on the opening stage too, the bonus seconds he accrued there putting him third on the general classification.
"We had this little funny plan this morning, just go for it, and I am close on the GC and I tried again and the first attack was the successful one,” explained Kohler.
"It was a little bit surprising and if no-one was following - why not?" he added.
"It means a lot, because it is my first leader's jersey and it is one of my favourite days here in Australia, but it is early in the season, so for sure it's good to be already in good shape, but I know it's going to be hard for the next stage which is a longer stage, with an uphill finish, which is different and more tough than other years.
“It’s going to be really hard for me to defend the jersey because I think the last two days I have lost a little bit of energy."
Tomorrow’s Stage 3 covers 134.5km from Unley to Victor Harbor.
Santos Tour Down Under Stage 2 result 1 William CLARKE AUS 3:58:35 2 Michael MATTHEWS RAB +1:02 3 Simon GERRANS GEC +1:02 4 Alejandro VALVERDE MOV +1:02 5 Edvald BOASSON HAGEN SKY +1:02 6 Oscar FREIRE GOMEZ KAT +1:02 7 Greg VAN AVERMAET BMC +1:02 8 Luke ROBERTS SAX +1:02 9 Gerald CIOLEK OPQ +1:02 10 Heinrich HAUSSLER GRM +1:02 11 Cameron MEYER GEC +1:02 12 Sergey LAGUTIN VCD +1:02 13 Jan BAKELANTS RSH +1:02 14 Linus GERDEMANN RSH +1:02 15 Tiago MACHADO RSH +1:02 16 Bernard SULZBERGER AUS +1:02 17 Michael ROGERS SKY +1:02 18 Xavier FLORENCIO KAT +1:02 19 Kristijan KOREN LIQ +1:02 20 Gorka IZAGIRRE EUS +1:02 Tour Down Under Overall Standings after Stage 2 1 Martin KOHLER BMC 8:33:05 2 André GREIPEL LTB at 2 secs 3 Michael MATTHEWS RAB 4 4 Simon GERRANS GEC 8 5 Rohan DENNIS AUS 9 6 Eduard VORGANOV KAT 10 7 Xavier FLORENCIO KAT 12 8 Jonathan CANTWELL SAX 12 9 Jan BAKELANTS RSH 12 10 Luke ROBERTS SAX 12
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.