Tasmanians team in Tour Down Under

AUSTRALIA'S biggest bike race will have special significance for three Tasmania cycling stalwarts next month.

Sulzberger brothers Bernie and Wes will team up with Will Clarke in their country's only WorldTour event, the Tour Down Under.

All three will wear the distinctive colours of Drapac and have good reason to be excited about the occasion.

It will be the first time the Sulzbergers have ridden on the same team in a top-flight event while Clarke returns to the scene of his biggest win.

The Flowery Gully brothers raced the 2010 Bay Crits together with much success, Bernard winning a stage and sprint jersey with teammate Matt Goss claiming overall victory, but they have never ridden together on the WorldTour.

It will also be 27-year-old Wes's first stage race with Drapac who he joined after being dropped by Orica-GreenEDGE following an untimely broken collarbone in the Tour of Spain this year.

For the second time in his roller-coaster career, Campbell Town's Clarke found himself in the same boat, after being dumped from the Dutch Argos-Shimano team.

Drapac's Agostino Giramondo, who is running the Melbourne-based team with directeur sportif Henk Vogels, told The Examiner last month that the 28-year-old had been on his radar throughout his time with Praties in Tasmania and his first spell on the WorldTour with Leopard-Trek.

However, it was during a year with the second-tier Asian-based Champion Systems that Clarke claimed his first WorldTour win, a gutsy 80-kilometre solo breakaway in stage 2 of the 2012 Tour Down Under.

``I've always wanted to ride for an Australian team,'' said Clarke, whose 2013 commitments included the famed 260-kilometre Paris-Roubaix cobbled classic. ``I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes. I think I will really enjoy it.''

Drapac has named a seven-man team for the Tour Down Under with the Tasmanian trio joining Sulzberger's former GreenEDGE teammate Travis Meyer, Thomas Palmer, Darren Lapthorne and leader Jonathan Cantwell, who has also arrived from the WorldTour ranks of Saxo-Tinkoff.

As an Australian pro-continental team, Drapac received a wildcard invitation to the six-stage Adelaide-based event from January 19 to 26 in which Launceston's Richie Porte will be among the favourites as leader of a powerful Team Sky line-up.

``Everyone knows Jonathan Cantwell is quick, but Drapac is taking a very balanced squad to the race,'' Vogels said.

``We'll aim to be the most attacking team and will be looking to take our opportunities wherever we can.''

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