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MELBOURNE, Australia (CT) – Ed Clancy (JLT-Condor) is best known for his considerable success on the track — not least three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the team pursuit and a slew of world championships medals. This evening, on Melbourne’s Southbank promenade, the 32-year-old Briton used his track cycling nous to power to the biggest victory of his road cycling career.
While some lamented the shortening of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour’s prologue from 2.1km to 1.6km, Clancy rejoiced. It tilted the contest in his favour. Clancy prepared accordingly, breaking down the technical stage like he would an effort on the velodrome.
“I’ve just been absolutely obsessed with this,” Clancy said of the stage. “I almost did it like in a sort of trackie way — you look at the numbers, you kind of figure what average power you reckon you can hold over two minutes, you look at [Danny] Van Poppel’s winning time from last year and you kind of figure ‘Well it hasn’t got this turn in — you might able to average a similar sort of speed.’
“I did a bit of calculations, worked out about how long it would take. I did my research.”
It went beyond speeds and times and power outputs too. Clancy studied the course in detail, both remotely and on the ground.
“As soon as a course profile [was available] you can get on get on Google Earth and have a little look,” Clancy said. “When we came down here a couple weeks ago for a photo shoot I spent a long time scouting out the course, even looking at drain covers and things like that and eyeing up that first straight.
“There’s a million ways you can attack a course like this — do you sprint right up to the corner and then slam on [the brakes] last minute? Or do you just sort of ride really hard and then coast up to the corner and save a bit of energy?
“It’s worth it though when it comes down to seven-tenths of a second.”
Worth it indeed. Four riders got within a single second of Clancy’s finishing time of 1:54.71: Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) at 0.63, Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) at 0.71 and Alex Frame (Trek-Segafredo) 0.88.
Of course it wasn’t just theoretical preparation that helped Clancy to victory. It was strength garnered through more than a decade of riding at the highest level on the track, not to mention a strong block of training in the weeks leading up to the Sun Tour.
“We just stayed in Bendigo for the last three and a half weeks now and just trained throughout,” Clancy said. “It’s been hot and hard. It’s been tough you know, we missed home. I really respect the Aussie guys that go out to be pro cyclists in Europe because it’s not easy being half way around the world.
“But when you’re stood here in the yellow jersey answering questions it feels like it’s been worth it.”
Of course, Clancy is no stranger to cycling success. In winning three consecutive team pursuit gold medals at the Olympics he also helped set six world records — two in each of the past three Olympics. But success on the road is more of a novelty — his only other professional victory was a stage of the UCI 2.2 Tour of Korea back in 2011.
“There’s no doubt about it — this is the biggest thing I’ve won on the road, for sure,” he said, beaming. “It’s unusual for a stage race of this calibre to start off with such a short prologue. I guess it suits the track [rider] with my physical assets — I’m a bit of a kilo rider for an endurance team … bit of a sprint-endurance hybrid.
“I’m absolutely buzzing honestly. I’m kinda used to riding with Team GB on the track and you’re almost … you try and keep it fresh but [there’s] always that level of expectation to go out there and get world medals and Olympic medals and even win things. You almost become accustomed to that after a decade of doing it.
“On the road — this is still new to me and this is big man, for a guy like me. Perhaps as big as it’s going to get.”
Clancy was the 10th rider down the start ramp, the Briton comfortably setting the fastest time to that point. He’d then spend more than an hour in the hot seat, waiting to see if anyone would be able to better his time.
It proved to be a nervous wait, not least when Alex Edmondson (Mitchelton-Scott) rolled on to the course. Clancy was well aware of what his fellow trackie was capable of.
“When Edmonson was coming down the last 200 metres …” Clancy said. “I know the form he’s had, and his Aussie Nationals recently — I was like ‘For sure this guy’s going to do me just on the last bit.’”
But Edmondson would end up sixth, 1.75 seconds behind Clancy.
Clancy’s victory means he’ll be in the leader’s yellow jersey when stage 1 departs Colac tomorrow morning. It’s a stage that will see the peloton head west along the famous Great Ocean Road before arriving in Warrnambool where a bunch sprint is likely to decide the stage. Clancy is “over the moon” at the prospect of leading the race for a stage, even if he doesn’t think he’s likely to be in yellow by day’s end.
“There’s a lot of strong riders here,” Clancy said. “If I was a betting man I’d say probably not [to whether he can defend yellow] but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.”
Either way, he certainly doesn’t hold out hopes of being able to win the race overall. The long climb to Lake Mountain later in the week will make sure of that.
“I haven’t even looked at the next four stages,” Clancy said. “I think everyone here knows what I’m about — no one’s going to expect me to take on [Esteban] Chavez on stage 3 so I’ll going to enjoy my day in yellow.”
Follow the link to full results from the prologue of the 2018 Jayco Herald Sun Tour.