A breakout season featuring more than 10,000 racing kilometres across four continents has Tasmanian cyclist Will Clarke setting his 2018 sights closer to home.
The 32-year-old peloton powerhouse is targeting the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast as his major goal for what would be his fifth season in the sport’s elite WorldTour ranks.
Fresh from completing his maiden Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana, Clarke told The Examiner he hopes to make maximum use of his home-nation races next year.
“I'd like to start the season well at the Tour Down Under and then hopefully I can get selected for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast,” he said.
“I haven't sat down with the coaches fully yet but starting out at Tour Down Under is likely and we will go from there.”
Hopefully I can get selected for the Commonwealth GamesWill Clarke
Having previously represented AG2R La Mondiale (2010), Leopard Trek (2011) and Argos-Shimano (2013) in the WorldTour, the Campbell Town rider is heading into a second season with Cannondale-Drapac after the team secured its financial stability for another year.
Clarke, who also has extensive experience at Continental (with Andrew Christie-Johnston’s Tasmanian Praties team 2009-10) and Pro-Continental (Champion System 2012 and Drapac 2014-16) levels, said he had gained priceless experience from a hectic season which has so far featured 66 days of racing.
He rode several big one-day races including the famed classics Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo, came third in the prologue at the Tour of Austria and also rode tours in Australia, USA, France, the Netherlands, Italy and the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland won by Tasmania’s other WorldTour rider Richie Porte.
But Clarke said he learned most from the grueling Vuelta where he helped teammate Mike Woods to seventh overall and Davide Villella to victory in the mountains classification.
Hampered by a hand injury sustained in the Colorado Classic just a week earlier, Clarke dug deep to finish 157th and found comfort when even eventual winner Chris Froome commented on how tough the race was.
“The Vuelta was a great experience,” Clarke said.
“It was the most physically challenging thing I had done before so it was nice to get all the way through.
“Lots of riders were saying it was the toughest Grand Tour they had done – even Froomey said to me he thought it was really hard. Not for the course but just the way it was raced.
“Personally, I had a few ups and downs. I didn't have the best start with hand being banged up from my crash the week before it started.
“As the race went on though I started feeling better and was able to do some good work for the team [although] I didn’t get the result I wanted personally.”
Clarke’s final commitment for the year will be the six-stage Tour of Guangxi in China from October 19-24 before he returns home to being his preparation for the 2018 season.