The Champion System squad will start today’s team time trial at the Tour of Qatar missing one of its strongest riders, with Will Clarke being a non-starter on the yesterday’s opening stage.
The Australian won a stage in the Santos Tour Down Under last month while guesting with the UniSA Australia team, and was regarded as one of the best riders on the team’s lineup in the Gulf race. However he fell ill and, unlike world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling), was unable to recover before the opening leg.
"Will Clarke is really sick and I felt it would not be good for him to start,” Champion System manager Ed Beamon said yesterday. “We consulted with two doctors, and I left the decision to him. Although he really didn't want to let the team down and miss our first race, I think wisely he took their advice. We decided it was better to recover than potentially lose him for Oman as well."
Prior to the race start, Clarke had pinpointed the tougher parcours of Oman as being more suited to his style of racing.
“I have not raced Qatar or Oman, from what I hear they are hard and pretty fast, with Qatar usually being decided by strong cross winds,” he said then. “Of the two races, I am looking forward to Oman more because there will be more variation in the course and it should suit me better. I am also looking forward to seeing what I can do there and also racing with my new team-mates.”
That race doesn’t start until February 14th, and so he has eight days to recover.
Yesterday’s opening stage of the Tour of Qatar marked the racing debut of the team. Matthias Friedemann was best placed of the team in 23rd. He finished in the same time as the stage winner Tom Boonen, as did most of the squad.
The Champion System team is the first Pro Continental squad from Asia, and has a four year goal to become a UCI ProTeam.