Sport often celebrates the “little guy” winning and Will Clarke’s win in Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under fits this script. I’m hesitant to label a rider like Clarke “little” because he’s an elite athlete – and tall too. So far his career has been a story of breakaways, in more ways than one.
Once a 800m runner, he got stress fractures and dropped athletics to take up cycling in 2007. He joined the Praties team for 2008 (now known as Genesys Wealth advisors) and got some good wins, including the Goulburn to Citi. By 2009 he was arguably the most promising rider on the Australian domestic scene.
It was time for another solo move. He followed in the slipstream of many compatriots and travelled to Belgium and its kermesse races, making the move under his own steam and at his own expense. It paid dividends: he rode 11 races and won six. In addition he visited the lab for an effort test, his numbers impressed. Fellow Tasmanian Richie Porte (Team Sky) put him up in Monaco and introduced his agent Andrew McQuaid who then got in touch with French team Ag2r La Mondiale and within weeks he was a stagiaire, a trainee.
That’s him in the video from August 2010. Note the “I like breakaways” phrase. Clarke impressed the French team but he got away, signing for Leopard-Trek instead.
But within a year the squad folded and he was out on his own again, this time in a bad way as he was left out when the team merged into Radioshack.
Now with team Champion System for the year, he is riding the Tour Down Under as a guest for the UniSA team and earlier today, with some help from BMC’s Martin Kohler, he soloed to his finest win yet in Stirling. He got away again.