Tour de France 2022: Simon Clarke goes from unemployed to stage win 5

After 20 years, Simon Clarke’s dream of the Tour de France has come true in an amazing way. The Australian was emotional after going from unemployment to a brilliant stage win this year.

It has taken two decades but Australian veteran Simon Clarke – who was unsigned at the start of the year – is a stage winner of the Tour de France.

Ten years after his maiden Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta a Espana, Clarke claimed an exciting sprint victory after winning a contest with his breakaway companions on a chaotic cobblestone stage in northern France.

Clarke passed Taco Van Der Hoorn after a 157km fifth stage with 19.4km of pavement that decimated the peloton.

Tadej Pogacar has already claimed his third straight Tour win and comes through the hectic day unscathed, while many others including Primoz Roglic and Australia’s Ben O’Connor are all but out of contention after crashes and mechanical problems.

Early reports suggest Roglic dislocated his shoulder in a fall.

Jack Haig, the Australian who finished third at the Vuelta last year, is out of the race after falling for the second straight year.

Caleb Ewan was in contention for a stage win but fell in a bizarre incident when the leading riders clipped a bale of safety hay that had fallen onto the road at the exit of a roundabout.

But up front, Clarke played his hand perfectly.

The Victorian finished in the closing kilometers alongside Neilson Powless, Van Der Hoorn and three-time Tour stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Powless was the first to jump with 1km to go and it looked like the American would be racing away for his first Tour stage win.

Clarke and Van Der Hoorn left Boasson Hagen – the group’s most dangerous sprinter – at the front to chase, with the Australian showing vast experience and tactical skill.

“When Powless attacked, you gotta sit back and hope the other guys panic before you do,” he said.

“I just gave Edvald some leeway in the hope that he might try to jump on me and he took the bait.

“I had to chase him really hard, and Taco came right over the top. I looked up and saw 350 (meters) and I thought, “Wow, that’s a long way to go, we’ve been sprinting since the 800 meter corner”.

“I just tucked in behind him and went to that line as hard as I could.”

The finish was so close that Clarke had to wait for photo confirmation of his long-awaited first Tour stage win.

“I still can’t believe I won on the line,” he said. “I had cramps in both legs. I just lined up the biggest pitch I could make. I still don’t believe it.”

What makes Clarke’s win even more impressive is the fact that he was out of a job earlier in the year.

After driving for Team Qhubeka NextHash last season, Clarke had to struggle to find a new contract when the team retired at the end of 2021.

He only officially signed a new one-year deal in January this year to race alongside Chris Froome at Israel-Premier Tech.

“After the winter I had time when I didn’t have a team to then have Israel call me and say we’re giving you this chance. It’s a reality check to make the most of every opportunity,” said an emotional Clarke.

“I came out of every race with momentum and made the most of every opportunity.

“I moved to Europe when I was 16, on the second day off I’ll be 36. Twenty years in Europe and today the dream has come true.”

However, dreams were shattered for a whole host of riders behind Clarke as the dreaded cobblestones around the town of Arenberg took their toll.

O’Connor, who finished fourth on his first Tour last year, crossed the line 4:12 behind Clarke. His hopes of climbing the podium are in shambles after mechanical problems on the pavement in the final 30km of the race.

Ewan’s losing streak continued, ending 11 minutes back while Haig failed to finish the stage.

Wout van Aert keeps his yellow jersey, 13 seconds ahead of Powless and 14 seconds ahead of Boasson-hagen.

Pogacar moved up to fourth, 19 seconds behind van Aert.

The Slovenian’s main rivals now are Jumbo Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard (+40 seconds), Adam Yates (+48 seconds) and Geraint Thomas (+50 seconds), who are just a quarter of the way through the Tour.

Brendan Bradford

Brendan Bradfordcontent producer

Brendan Bradford is a sportswriter for CODE Sports. It mainly covers martial arts, league, union, cycling and athletics. Brendan has worked in sports media for a decade covering world title fights, world championships, grand slams and spring tours. Tour de France 2022: Simon Clarke goes from unemployed to stage win 5

Nate Jones

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