Will Clarke has received an 11th-hour invitation to realise his cycling dream.
The Campbell Town 32-year-old received a late call-up to the Cannondale-Drapac team for the Vuelta a España, which begins on Saturday.
In his third stint in the elite World Tour, Clarke had said his major goal was to contest one of Europe’s Grand Tours but had missed out on the races in Italy and France.
Provisional Vuelta squads also had his name missing but the rookie team announced on Thursday named Clarke as one four Grand Tour debutants.
And in a further bonus, the breakaway specialist has been given a green light to go for stage wins.
“I’m super happy to get the call-up for the Vuelta. It was one of my goals for the year,” said Clarke, who follows the likes of Micheal Wilson, Matt Goss, Wes Sulzberger and Richie Porte as Tasmanian Grand Tour riders.
“I have never raced for three weeks in a row, so I’m just looking forward to going through the whole experience. Everyone says once you have done a Grand Tour, it raises you to a new level.
“Personally, I would like to get in some breakaways and be active in the race to support my teammates. I think as a team we are fully capable of stage wins, so coming away with that is the aim.”
Sport director Juanma Garate said Clarke was the last rider added to the team following a crash in Colorado.
“He was our reserve rider, and he will take to the start instead of Davide Formolo, who is ill,” Garate said.
“He and Tom Scully will have more or less the same role. When there is an open final, these two can really surprise and they willl lead-out Tom van Asbroeck in the sprinter’s stages.”
Clarke said he was still sore from the accident in the Colorado Classic.
“My arm and hip are a bit swollen, with stitches in my knuckle. It’s not ideal, but as a bike rider, I think we all have these moments, and you become stronger by pushing through them.”
The three-week Vuelta starts with a 13.9-kilometer team time trial in Nîmes, France on Saturday.
With no general classification contender in the line-up, Cannondale-Drapac will target stage wins.
“We want to continue with the attitude that we showed as a team during this season. Of course we don’t have high GC ambitions, but we do want to win a stage as we did in the Giro and the Tour de France,” Garate said.
“The Vuelta this year has a team time trial, one individual time trial, four stages that will most likely end in a bunch sprint, six hilly stages and nine uphill finals. The design of this year’s Vuelta opens a lot of possibilities for aggressive teams and riders.”
The Vuelta finishes on September 13 with nine laps at the traditional city criterium in Madrid.