Stranded without a contract at the end of last season, Simon Clarke struck a last-minute deal with Israel-Premier Tech. He remains an asset to any team because of his work ethic, experience and attitude. In Arenberg overnight, the 35-year-old celebrated a stunning victory in the fifth stage of the Tour de France.


– An Australian stage victory! Tour de France: stage 4, Dunkirk to Calais (171.5km)


Simon Clarke… first in s stage five of the 2022 Tour de France. (Photo: Pauline Ballet, via ASO)

Cobbles, confusion and chaos in the dust. That’s how many will remember the fifth stage of the 2022 Tour de France. It was a day when the early break succeeded and an Australian triumphed thanks to one final lunge at the finish line after a sprint hindered by cramp. Simon Clarke’s throw of the bike in the dying metres of the 157km stage on the pavé of Paris-Roubaix made the difference.

“After the winter I had, when I had no team, to have Israel [Premier Tech] ring me up and say we’ll give you that chance, it just gives you such a reality check,” said Simon in the post-race interview with Seb Piquet.

The lack of a contract until the late rescue deal was clearly in Clarke’s mind when he spoke about his second stage win in the TDF. In 2013, he was part of the Orica-GreenEdge line-up that was fastest in the team time trial in Nice. That was stage four of the 100th Tour and a team-mate at the time, Simon Gerrans, would put on the yellow jersey thanks to the efforts of the collective.

Nine years later Clarke adds another stage win to his resumé. This time, it was true grit and determination added to race craft and surprising tactical savvy that helped him achieve a victory in the twilight of his long career.

The breakaway speed across the cobbles of northern France. (Photo: Charly Lopez, via ASO)

“This season, I’ve come out in every race swinging because I try to make the most of every opportunity.

“Even these first four or five days, I’ve just been contributing to the team, and then really checking out, taking it as easy as possible. And then Zak Dempster [the team’s DS] came to me this morning and said, ‘Clarkey, it’s breakaway day…’ You’ve just got to make it count.”

In the final kilometres, Neilson Powless, one of the five of the breakaway riders to survive the chase of the peloton, was the first to attack. Although the American from the EF Education-Easypost team gained considerable ground, Clarke exercised patience when less experienced riders would have panicked.

He sat nestled on the wheel of Edvald Boasson Hagen and challenged the Norwegian to take responsibility for the chase of Powless who, for some time during the stage, was the virtual leader of GC. While Clarke waited, Powless slowly faded, unable to maintain enough momentum to hold off his breakaway companions all the way to the finish line.

Boasson Hagen did put in bid for the stage victory, then Taco van der Hoorn took over with head-bobbing determination that seemed would pay off. With clean air behind him, the Dutchman could have been forgiven for thinking he’d won… but Clarke wasn’t finished with quite yet.



“Taco was well ahead of me with 50 metres to go,” explained Clarke. “I was cramping in both legs and I just lined up the biggest throw I could possibly do and I just prayed it was enough.

“Honestly, I need to watch the replay. I still don’t quite believe it.”

The photo finished revealed the difference between satisfaction and frustration: Clarke ahead of van der Hoorn by a matter of millimetres. It was enough to prompt a rush of emotions for the Australian veteran who dropped to the ground and sat with his head between his knees quietly considering all that went into this crafted, cunning victory.

Clarke is one of the most popular riders in the peloton and the joy displayed by others like Alberto Bettiol as they arrived at the finish in Arenberg and congratulated the winner was obvious. It was a day the early break succeeded. It was a stage that created havoc for others and created the first DNF of the 109th TDF when Jack Haig crashed out, ultimately being diagnosed with “multiple non-displaced wrist fractures”.

It was a race that promised to deliver drama and intrigue and that’s exactly what happened.

Wout van Aert remains at the top of the GC standings but there are many top favourites considering what they can do to rescue their race after losing time on the cobblestones.

Clarke has the answer: “Come out swinging in every race”. And, as he also says, “try to make the most of every opportunity”.

This was captivating bike racing and although it can be cruel, it can also be beautiful. There are time gaps for many to make up if they are to challenge the dominant defending champion, Tadej Pogacar, who continues to demonstrate that he’s the complete package – a climber, a leader, and now a cobbled specialist. And there are myriad other stories that emerged from a rapid, dusty battle on the pavé of northern France, but Clarke’s triumph will be remembered fondly even by those who suffered setbacks.

The throw of the bike would prove to be enough for Clarke and perhaps the only one who would prefer not to rewatch the replay of the finish is the runner-up. Taco van der Hoorn did everything right on a day when plenty of things could go wrong, it’s just that Simon Clarke did one thing just that little bit better.


– By Rob Arnold