WILL Clarke has continued his impressive form with new team Drapac with a winning start to the National Road Series.
Tasmania's former WorldTour performer returned to the series he won in 2009 by defeating a high- quality field in a flood-lit opening stage to the Tour de Perth.
Clarke led his team's charge through the eventful 35-lap twilight criterium on the esplanade in Fremantle, avoiding a late pile-up to take a four-second lead.
"The whole race was really sketchy but I was able to come through unscathed and eventually take the win," said the 28-year- old, of Campbell Town.
"The plan was to try and get some time in the intermediate sprints and I found myself there at the end in a good position to sprint.
"It was such a tight course you had to be at the front or basically your race was over, it was so vital.
"I felt pretty good but it was quite a hard race. I was definitely the beneficiary of having four teammates left in the race at the end. They made sure I was up there."
Fellow Tasmanian Jai Crawford joined teammates Lachlan Norris, Travis Meyer and Adam Phelan to make a final group of around 70 finishers from which Clarke led home CharterMason's Shannon Johnson and Anthony Giacoppo (Avanti).
Clarke also produced eye- catching performances at the Tour Down Under and national road championships and has impressed team directeur sportif Henk Vogels.
"The boys got Will up the front but given he was able to avoid crashing it was just brute strength which saw him take the win ahead of the sprinters of the peloton," Vogels said.
Clarke recovered from an early crash to finish 13th in yesterday's 116-kilometre second stage to Kalamunda, 62 seconds behind Budget Forklifts' winner Tim Roe.
The tour runs until Saturday, kicking off 67 days of racing for 369 riders across five states and one territory.