Simon Clarke: “I questioned whether I could be more motivated somewhere else”
Australia national team staple Simon Clarke marked the end of a “really good” season and so time with trade outfit Orica-GreenEdge at the UCI Road World Championships on Sunday.
Clarke has been selected to represent his nation at all bar two world titles since making a junior appearance in 2003 and worked early to assist men’s road race silver medalist Michael Matthews before penning the end of another career chapter.
The 29-year-old helped call the shots as a road captain on the “unique” course that may at another time have suited the puncheur now focused on a fresh start with Cannondale-Garmin from 2016.
“Negotiating to change teams requires quite a lot of time and stress and I feel in a way that’s maybe had a little bit of an effect on my performance recently,” Clarke told Cyclingtips from North America.
Clarke has competed for ‘home’ trade team Orica-GreenEdge since its inception in 2012 and with the group this year marked a stint in the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia where he also made headlines for assisting compatriot and Sky rival Richie Porte with a mechanical for which the latter was controversially penalised for.
“I did an interview at the start of the year, before the season, and said I really wanted to focus on the Giro and be good there. I think I can say I ticked that box,” he said.
Clarke leaves Orica-GreenEdge on good terms and dismissed a notion he was on the ‘out’ of the squad that has a well-documented distinctive team culture.
“If anything it was the opposite and that was probably the one thing that was making me consider not leaving. I really enjoyed it there but, yeah, I think a new challenge was on the cards and that’s what I need,” he said.
“They’re focusing more specifically on the climbers and more specifically on lead-out men and sprinters so me being pretty much in the middle I found myself in a situation where, okay, they’re kind of focusing on two things that I don’t specify in. I can still support climbers to an extent and I can still be involved in lead-outs but it’s not necessarily my bread and butter and that was kind of when I began to think maybe a challenge somewhere else would be interesting.”
Cannondale-Garmin offered Clarke a two-year contract that was an added attraction, especially within a transfer market that has seen more one-year deals offered in reaction to UCI WorldTour reforms slated for 2017.
At the U.S. registered squad he will have an opportunity to develop more as a one-day rider, with an eye on the Ardennes Classics, and also employ his skill as a road captain in stage races.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of calling the shots on the road and being a part of a winning team but at the same time I didn’t want to just write off my own personal desire,” he said. “So to be able to find an offer, an opportunity, where I can at various stages throughout the year do both of those then that was going to be the perfect solution, and that’s what we discussed and agreed upon at Cannondale.”
The newly engaged Clarke hopes that his start at Jonathan Vaughters’s stable will above all else pre-empt a renewed sense of motivation.
“I don’t think I became complacent [at Orica-GreenEdge] but I questioned whether I could be more motivated somewhere else,” he said. “I think the answer to that question I’ll really know next year, if I notice a difference or not, you know. It’s been a great four years and it’s gone so quickly and been great fun but I think it’s been good to make the decision and go; right, we’re going to go move on.”
Clarke will attend a Cannondale-Garmin training camp before returning to Australia in October. He will continue to work with long-time coach Jonathan Hall going forward.
The Victorian is one of several confirmed riders, including Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin), Ryan Mullen (An Post-Chain Reaction), Patrick Bevin (Avanti), Wouter Wippert (Drapac), Michael Woods (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo), transferring to the WorldTour team.