“There are so many places you can ride your bike that are just beautiful,” says Simon Clarke. “It’s a great way to see places.” He’s been a professional cyclist for almost half his life and, at 36, he is enjoying his job more than ever.



– An interview – part of a series from a weekend of cycling in Singapore, by Rob Arnold

On the Sunday of the Prudential Singapore Criterium I sat down with Simon Clarke for a quick chat to reflect on 2022. It was a year in which the 36-year-old won a stage of the Tour de France, the first for his Israel-Premier Tech team, and proved that there’s still plenty of life in the legs of a veteran ‘Road Captain’.

It was a quick chat poolside a few hours before he joined the likes of Chris Froome, Jonas Vingegaard, Vincenzo Nibali and others in a showcase race using some of the roads that featured in the Singapore F1 GP only a few weeks earlier.

The ‘race’ was won by Vingegaard, the reigning TDF champion, and it was a great chance for cycling to get some exposure in one of the sport’s non-traditional territories.

There was a short window of time for an interview that I’ve been wanting to do since his victory in stage five of the Tour when he put his experience and race craft to good use.

It’s likely that you know the story of Clarke’s arrival at Israel-Premier Tech; it was a last-minute contract offer from a WorldTour team (which has since been relegated from cycling’s top-tier), and his performances early in 2022 – and in Le Tour in particular – helped secure an extension through to the end of 2024.

Clarke always seems motivated to race and he admits that the uncertainty of his career as the season approached helped give him the impetus to keep training while searching for a team to race with.

The win in stage five of the Tour was the second time Clarke appeared on the podium of the world’s biggest race; in 2013, he was part of the record-breaking ride by the Orica-GreenEdge team that took victory in the Tour’s TTT in Nice.

His career is one packed with highlights, but Clarke’s many successes as a pro cyclist have often been as a loyal team-mate to other riders.

He has matured into one of Australia’s most professional riders and his cycling life actually began when he took part in a community event – the Great Victorian Bike Ride – when he was a teenager. (You can read about it in a column he wrote for RIDE Cycling Review back in 2010.)

There was limited time to talk in Singapore but the interview offers a chance to get some perspective on an interesting time for a rider who has accomplished a lot and who believes he still has plenty to offer a sport that he’s come to know and love.

Below is a transcript of an interview with Simon Clarke at the end of October 2022.

RIDE Media: I thought we’d have a quick chat about the season that almost wasn’t, one that became a season to remember. I think I can pick the highlight. Can you talk to me about how everything worked out and [offer] an overview of 2022 for you?

Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech): “In every Pro athlete’s career you have ups and downs and some bigger than others. It was a pretty big hurdle for me this year, coming in with no team, but I just tried to focus on what I could control and that was my preparation and my training.

“I actually ended up focusing so much on that that I took it to a new level, and that actually proved to turn into an advantage in the end.

“I’m always an optimist and I try to stay positive and make the most of any situation… I’m not going to say it wasn’t tough but it ended up well.

“If you stick by it and stay true to yourself you can turn a bad situation into a positive, and that’s what I was able to do this year and we saw the results of that.”

The breakaway on the cobbles of northern France in stage five of the 2022 TDF. (Photo: Charly Lopez, via ASO)

RIDE Media: If we’re talking about the stage win at the Tour – which is the obvious highlight – I think it was a lesson in perseverance and cunning and an understanding of how bike race unfolds. You have long been labelled a ‘Road Captain’ but when it was coming down to crunch time [in stage five] were you expecting it to unfold the way that it did?

Simon Clarke: “No. I don’t think anyone predicted it to unfold the way it did, particularly in that last kilometre. But you just need to race with a calm head and know your tactic and also know the other guys’ tactics and try to predict how they will ride the final. And you adjust accordingly.

“One memory I have of winning that stage is how clear a mindset I had coming into that final. I was just so focused.

“I knew [Neilson] Powless was going long. I knew but [Edvald] Boasson Hagen was the fastest sprinter… so I was going to put it on him to have to chase anyone who went long. And then I know Taco [van der Hoorn] likes going for a long sprint so I was ready for that. “Then when [Taco] went with 300 to go, I was jumped on him and waited until the last possible moment.

“I think that having a clear mindset really made a massive difference to me in that final.

“There was so much experience that I tapped into in that final, from analysing my opponents – knowing my opponents– knowing how good and what kind of bike riders they are.

“It’s maybe an area where a lot of other riders don’t really take too much interest in – studying their opponents – but it can be a key factor [when] trying to win races like that.”

November 1997, when it all began… Simon Clarke on his MTB (with aerobars) riding the Great Victorian Bike Ride. (Photo: Bicycle Network)

RIDE Media: After you won the stage, I published the story you wrote for me many years ago about your start to cycling and I think it resonated with a lot of people because, frankly, community rides are where it begins for a lot of people. In 2022, after the pandemic, there’s a glut of interest in cycling, there are a lot of people who are new to it and just trying to work out how they’re going to play this new passion of theirs.

What would you say to this group of people who are discovering the joy and the beauty of cycling?

Simon Clarke: “It’s such a great sport. It’s great because you can incorporate socialising with exercise and there’s not many sports where you can socialise and exercise at the same time.

“I think it can be very enjoyable not only from a professional, racing level but at an amateur level too…

“To anyone who is discovering it, just enjoy it and take it as far as you want to. Also, go wherever you like: you can go to Europe, you can travel around Australia… there are so many places you can ride your bike that are just beautiful… it’s a great way to see places.”

Simon Clarke with Gerry Ryan moments after the team time trial victory in Nice back in 2013.

RIDE Media: You were not sure of how the season would unfold, but now you’ve got contract extension [through to the end of 2024]… where do you see yourself [in the future]? It strikes me that you’re the kind of rider who would end up as a DS. Are you looking that far ahead?

Simon Clarke: “Funnily enough I get a lot of people telling me that but, at this stage, I’m not really sure. I don’t know if I want to be a director. But who knows? Never say never, but I’ve got quite a few other interests

“We’ll see what happens but, for now, I’ve just signed a new two-year contract so I’m not thinking about stopping anytime soon.

“Hopefully I can keep going even longer and then I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

RIDE Media: You [and your family] had some big news a couple of weeks ago when there was a new arrival. How is parenthood, and how does it combine with a career that takes you here, there and everywhere?

Simon Clarke: “Yeah [we] had [our] second child two weeks ago and it’s great but, as any parents will know, it’s a full-time job. So, we’re just adjusting to that, but I love it.

“It’s great and we’re trying to have a real clear plan of how we organise day-to-day life with me, and training, and whatnot…

“When we get into season more, we’ll have to get things planned pretty well but so far so good. I’m loving it.”

RIDE Media: I wonder if you could quickly sum up with a little overview of the Singapore experience.

Simon Clarke: “It has been amazing to be here. It really feels like we’re bringing the Tour de France to the people who like can’t come and see it in Europe. We really come to the people and show them who we are and what we’re about.

“I think it’s a great way to market [cycling] a little bit… and also come and see a beautiful place like Singapore and put on a good show – and spread the word for Tour de France and also just for cycling in general.”


– Interview by Rob Arnold


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