Simon Clarke: “I questioned whether I could be more motivated somewhere else”

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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.”

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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.

Twitter: @SophieSmith86

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