Stirling, South Australia – William Clarke's stirring solo victory Wednesday on Stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under will go down as one of the finest moments in the short history of the Champion System Pro Cycling Team.
Riding for Team UniSA, the exclusive Australian national team, Clarke delivered one of the most remarkable performances in the history of the WorldTour calendar event. The 26-year-old Tasmanian attacked with Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) from the start of the 148-kilometer race, then soloed the final 70 km to register the biggest win of his young professional career.
"This is unbelievable, really," Clarke said after crossing the finish line 62 seconds ahead of charging field that rapidly cut into his 12-minute lead in the final kilometers. "This is the biggest win of my career. It's my first win in the WorldTour. I knew my form was good."
Following the race from the Champion System team's training camp in Hong Kong, General Manager Ed Beamon said he couldn't help but believe even more fine performances from Clarke lie ahead. Earlier this month, Clarke registered a pair of top 10 finishes in the Australian road nationals, finishing fifth in the road race and eighth in the individual time trial.
"He's showing incredible form and that's a big reason why we were happy to give Will a break from the Champion System training camp to represent his country at the Santos Tour Down Under," Beamon said. "We hired him – to a large degree – because of his breakaway capability. He certainly proved that ability today. To manage such a time gap virtually on his own is more than impressive."
Because Clarke lost 1:40 on Tuesday's opening stage, he was not able to secure the race leader's jersey, which went to Kohler. But he did claim the SKODA King of the mountain jersey as well as Hindmarsh Most Aggressive Rider honors. He also leads the Jayco Sprint classification.
"I was dying in the last 10 kilometers," Clarke said. "(Team Manager) Dave Sanders was telling me to go for the GC (general classification). It's amazing that a breakaway rider can stay away for so long. It's sort of my speciality to keep going."
The six-day race continues Thursday with a 134.5 km stage that finishes in the seaside town of Victor Harbor.
The Champion System Pro Cycling Team is Asia's first pro continental squad. Presented last week in Beijing, the squad features 19 riders from 10 countries. The team will contest all the major races in Asia, as well as follow a program that includes races in Europe and North America.