Will Clarke claims solo win at Tour Down Under

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Young Australian rider Will Clarke has won the second stage of the 2012 Tour Down Under with a commanding solo ride, pulling off a daring breakaway early in the 149km stage and leading the field all the way to Stirling.

Clarke and BMC rider Martin Kohler showed no adverse effects from Tuesday’s sapping conditions and broke free of the peloton in the opening stages of the stage, which began at Lobethal.

Kohler’s breakaway efforts came as a surprise after he was also involved in yesterday’s failed breakaway, and he was rewarded with enough time bonuses to claim the overall leader’s ochre jersey by two seconds from yesterday’s stage winner Andre Greipel.

After collecting the time bonuses, the Swiss rider Kohler dropped back to the main field, leaving Clarke to negotiate the final 80km to the finish line alone.

He entered the Stirling circuit with a healthy 11 minute, 30 second lead but began to fade as the peloton began to steadily drag the 26-year-old Tasmanian back to the field.

Movistar’s Angel Madrazo and Javier Moreno attempted an audacious breakaway attempt of their own with little over 50km of the stage to go, but never managed to put more than a minute between themselves and the peloton and were soon reined in.

As was the case yesterday, GreenEDGE and Rabobank were two of the teams who began to drive the peloton back into the race, and they were joined by Spanish outfit Euskaltel Euskadi.

In the final 10km of the race it looked like they may have clawed the margin back enough to catch Clarke, but with less than 3km to go he was able to maintain a lead of over three minutes and the race was his, crossing the finish line over 500m in front of the peloton.

It became an all Australian podium finish after Michael Matthews (Rabobank) crossed the line in second place, with Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) in third.

Despite his memorable performance, Clarke still sits in 66th position, 36 seconds behind Kohler after starting the day nearly two minutes behind Greipel.

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