What do we count as the biggest sporting day in Australia? Is it the AFL grand final? Maybe the NRL grand final? What about Melbourne Cup?
Simon Clarke rode into seventh place on Sunday night in arguably one of the toughest ever World Cycling Championships. A new generation of clean riders has arrived.
As Italy’s national team grappled with the pointy end of the bike race, they ratcheted up the tension on an increasingly elongated peloton.
The 100 kilometres to go mark saw a main group of no more than 70 well-moistened riders – with about 30 in permanent dangle mode: Pronto for a proverbial shelling out the back.
Without relent, the bunch galloped through an interestingly difficult course, leaving a small and eclectic mix of 50 riders to occupy the front bunch with an hour remaining.
The likes of Jakob Degenkolb and Fabian Cancellara were holding fort for the big men, proving the climbs too short for the skeleton-exposed mountain goats to properly capitalise.
The race was marred by crashes on the quintessentially twisty Tuscan roads; house-faces acting as curbs for many an out-of-control rider.
The grapes for wine struck a contrast on the uber-advanced technologies of cycling’s latest gizmos.
Simon Clarke, as much as I am sure his manager paid off the Eurosport commentators to advertise his skills to the world last night (he got mentioned a thousand and one times), rode an amazing race.
As a guy that has persevered through the junior ranks, U23 ranks, pro-continental ranks, and finally flourished at the World Tour level, he showed the world last night how clean the world of cycling is right now.
Clarke is professional in how he lives his life.
His training is tailored to his all-round abilities; every repetition sculpted with intent and no training day wasted.
His nutrition is that of routine and regiment, his core strengthening vigorous and persistent.
Clarke trains to his limit, then recovers as fast as possible, while having logged his training data – progress – every single day for nearly ten years so far.
He is the epitome of persistence paying off.
As Clarke sprinted home to seventh place last night in the biggest cycling race of the year, he showed the world how suffering and hard work will without a doubt, reap rewards down the line.
From his track camps with the Australian Junior National Team, to his ‘ONCE’ efforts with Brian Stephens at sa.com/AIS, his hours of motorpacing with Cadel Evans through the mountains around Lago Maggiore; Simon Clarke has build his engine to battle against the world.
This is a message to those who don’t believe in the good soul of our sport. In what can be done with perseverance. In a seventh place in the world, or in seven hour bike races through rain and hills against the best in the world.
Simon Clarke is undeniably, undoubtedly, 100 percent a clean bike rider, and he isn’t even at his prime yet.
He is still improving at a rapid rate, enough to hopefully allow his victory in coming years.
Regardless, cycling after all it has been through, may finally be the cleanest sport in the world. Cycling is clean, and Simon Clarke is not only proof but a text-book showing everyone how to do it within the rules.
Follw Adam on Twitter @adamsemple