The word “epic” has been endlessly overused to describe the 12th edition of Strade Bianche, but we get it. Saturday’s race was bike racing at its best and hardest and filthiest. EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale lined up for the one-day Italian classic with the intent to support Sep Vanmarcke, a fourth-place finisher in Siena in 2014, in his quest for the podium. A mechanical on the seventh sector derailed Vanmarcke’s ambitions, so road captain Simon Clarke, who’s enjoying a run of consistently solid early season form, embraced the opportunity to race for himself in Vanmarcke’s absence. The Australian ultimately finished in 17th place.
CLARKE ON CONDITIONS:
“The conditions were obviously terrible but you know we had to adjust and make do with what we had. Everyone did. It was very technical to ride the dirt sections. They were quite muddy and rutted out, lots of holes. You had to have some really good bike handling skills to get through a day like that. There were a lot of calculated risks you had to take, and I tried to minimize those as much as possibly, only taking risks when I had to.
“The mud was next level this year, and to be honest, I absolutely loved it. It was such an amazing race today. It’s not often in road cycling that we are challenged like this. Generally it’s a physical game. Today it was just as much a technical game, knowing how to ride your bike in tricky conditions. I absolutely loved that.
“Obviously we were completely fully of mud. I had a nice hot shower on the bus to clean myself, but the clothes that were new this morning – those are going to need a very serious washing to get clean. I think a handful of cycles in the washing machine, at least.”
CLARKE ON TACTICS:
“Tactics? It was about survival. There is no real rocket science needed on a day like today. Obviously, we were working for Sep. Unfortunately he had a mechanical and needed a bike change. He lost quite a bit of time. I was given the green light to keep going, and I did the best I could.”
CLARKE ON EARLY SEASON FORM:
I was happy with my ride but I think I had the legs to get a better result than I did. It was unfortunate to miss that group of 10 that got away with 30-odd kilometers to go. I got stuck with the big guys – Sagan, Kwaitowski, Valverde. That really hindered my performance, my result. I really would have liked to have been in that front group there. Missing that cost me a better result. I’m still happy with my ride and the form is there. I’ll keep pushing on.
I’m feeling really good. To go well during the early season, you need to have everything go right. You need good preparation, to not get sick, not crash. So far everything has been going really well. Consistently good preparation without any hindrances can provide a good platform for solid form and strong rides. That’s what I attribute my form to in this early season.