He may have been born in Victoria, but professional cyclist Simon Clarke has more Tasmanian connections than many of the state's inhabitants.
Known largely for his act of sportsmanship in gifting Richie Porte his wheel during the 2015 Tour de France, the 33-year-old has shared the stage with a who's who of Tasmanian cyclists.
Coming up through the Australian Institute of Sport with Wes Sulzberger before turning pro, the two crossed paths again for Orica GreenEDGE in 2012 and '13 while Matthew Goss stayed on for another year and Will Clarke joined him at Education First Drapac Cannondale for 2017 and '18.
ELSEWHERE IN SPORT
"I've always been semi connected to Tassie pros and now I actually live 200 metres down the road from [triathlete and ironman] Cam Wurf in Andorra, so I ride a lot with him these days although he's not professionally cycling," Clarke said.
"He's still riding his bike and obviously running and swimming between sessions but it's good to get out and keep in touch with him."
Returning to the state for Sunday's Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic, the 2016 Olympic teammate of Porte is looking forward to taking part in an event he raced 10 years ago.
"I don't always come back at the same time to Australia every year so I'm not always available to get down to Launceston to do this criterium. This year, I've come back a little bit earlier and the opportunity arose to come down to Tassie for the weekend and I jumped at it.
"It's one of the bigger criteriums in Australia these days so it's always good to be a part of and I can't wait."
The annual race that brings a stand-still to Launceston's streets starts a new season for Clarke, fresh off a two-month break following a busy 2019.
Riding in his fifth Tour de France, he collected a sixth-place finish in stage two as well as two ninth-placed results in stages nine and 12, but the biggest success of Clarke's year occurred off the bike, with the arrival of his first daughter, Stella.
"It's been a bit of a learning experience, trying to juggle a professional cycling career and making sure that you're doing enough training and keeping on top of everything sporting-wise whilst supporting your family and doing what you can to help out.
"It's going really well, I'm loving it and hopefully I can continue next year as I have this year."
Clarke's lengthy 15-year career has included 13 Grand Tours and 23 classics for teams like the AIS, Aeronautica Militare-Amica Chips, ISD, Orica GreenEDGE and his current outfit Education First.
His highlights include two stage wins in the Vuelta a Espana (2012 and 2018) and the 2012 King of the Mountains win in Spain as well as general classification victory in the 2014 Herald Sun tour in which he beat home Wurf by eight seconds.
Sunday's event is the 16th running of the race since its inception in 2002 (uncontested in 2005-06) and marks 10 years since the passing of founder Stan Siejka.
The race gets underway at 4:30pm with the returning women's criterium starting at 3:10 following masters races and a running challenge.
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