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"It was a nervous wait for me actually, starting 40-45 minutes before him ... and sitting up there. I thought he’s [Ewan] good in the corners, he’s very fast so this course suits him as well."

Photo: Herald Sun Tour 2016

CHRIS FROOME

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DRAPAC PORSCHE CYCLING

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HERALD SUN TOUR

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JACK BOBRIDGE

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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TEAM NOVO NORDISK

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TEAM SKY

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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WILLIAM CLARKE

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03.02.2016 @ 19:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

William Clarke (Drapac) is known as one of the best prologue riders in Australia and he confirmed his status by taking a second consecutive win in the short 2.1km prologue that usually opens the Herald Sun Tour. Like last year he beat Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) into second as he was one second faster than the young sprinter while Neil van der Ploeg (Avanti) was two seconds off the pace in third. Clarke is the first leader of the race.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

William Clarke: I am simply stronger than last year

Will Clarke powered to repeat his Jayco Herald Sun Tour Prologue win of 2015 with a dominant victory last night in Melbourne. Clarke set a course record, nearly one second faster that his 2015 time with sprinting star Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE) second at 2:34.27, a full second behind Clarke. Neil Van Der Ploeg (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) rounded out the podium in a time of 2:36.71.Averaging just over 49km/hr on the 2.1 kilometer twisting course through the heart of Downtown Melbourne, Clarke showed last year’s win was no fluke.

 

“I enjoy this race. I like the technical aspect and the power needed on a course like this. I knew last year Ewan was close to me and he is in form, so I had to push every moment tonight,” Clarke said.

 

Clarke is known for his time trial strength over the short prologue events. One of the tallest riders in the peloton, Clarke uses his power and experience in these short events. Clarke was in the gate rather early in the evening’s event with Ewan one of the last riders to take off.

 

“I know the course well and knew I had to attack every corner and keep speed. Rhythm is very important in events this short. Going earlier in the line up and Ewan going later, I had no idea what time would hold up so I had to simply go full gas and hope it was enough. Tonight it was and I am very happy to take the win for Drapac and start the team in the yellow jersey tomorrow.

 

"Pretty much same result as last year just beating Caleb by about a second. It was a nervous wait for me actually, starting 40-45 minutes before him ... and sitting up there. I thought he’s [Ewan] good in the corners, he’s very fast so this course suits him as well.

 

“I am just stronger than last year I think so I think that’s what allowed me to go a little bit quicker. I guess I’d down Tour Down Under the previous years before this and maybe in ways it can help to have a race in your legs but I guess I was able to do more specific prologue work before this also which could have helped.

 

“It would be nice to hang onto the jersey for a day or two, he have to wait and see how the race plays out. It’s such a short prologue so the time gaps aren’t huge, its not like I am 10-20 seconds up on anyone. Whoever basically wins tomorrow has a good chance of pulling on the leaders jersey. We’ll wait and see how the race is going, maybe put some guys up the road to defend our interest that way."

 

Clarke admitted that Sky was likely to go on the offensive.

"On paper they've got a lot of guys that have ridden the Tour de France and Froome's won the Tour de France," he said. "They know how to control a race so they can definitely take control if they want to."

 

Tomorrow’s course heads into the hills of Yarra Valley for a 126km route that will quickly test the legs of the riders.

 

“Great work tonight by Will and he showed both his grit and his form. We are happy to wear the leader jersey to start the Tour and will look to be active in the stages coming up. Will’s victory tonight sets the platform for the week for us,” Tom Southam, Sports Director said. “It was good for the team to perform well in our hometown and we enjoy racing here in Melbourne.”

 

Caleb Ewan disappointed after first second place of successful year

The Jayco Herald Sun Tour kicked off this evening with a 2.1km prologue around Melbourne city centre. Santos Tour Down Under stage winner Caleb Ewan finished second by only 0.8 of a second to last year's stage winner William Clarke (Drapac Professional Cycling). 

 

The 21-year-old was the final rider of the day and the only rider left to try and knock Clarke off the top step, but couldn't quite overhaul his new course record time of two minutes 34.27seconds.

 

"It was down to less than a second in it again," expressed Ewan. "I left it all out there tonight and I still came up short.  Will (Clarke) was obviously really strong today and I wasn't as strong so I got second, that's just how it is." 

 

“Obviously I am not training really for a two–and-half kilometre prologue but I was pretty confident with my form and how I was going. I knew I was going to do a good ride but obviously it wasn’t good enough to win. Will was super strong today, as he was last year, and I think he does really well in these short time trials so it was always going to be hard to beat him.”

Sport director Matt Wilson praised the teams efforts today, in what came down to such a small margin in the end.

 

"It was the same as last year with three guys in the top ten. A really good effort from the boys, Damien Howson (8th) was a surprise ride.

 

"It's actually good going in to tomorrow's stage and to not have the lead. It takes the pressure off and there's a little more pressure on Drapac." 

 

Wilson said the city-centre prologue was another success for the Australian cycling season.

 

"The crowd was huge in the city centre and the rain earlier on didn't seem to keep people away."

 

Wet conditions destroy Bobridge’s prologue at the Sun Tour

The Jayco Herald Sun Tour kicked off Wednesday evening in Melbourne with a fast, technical 2.1-kilometer prologue.  Niccolò Bonifazio completed the tricky course that required a combination of power and acceleration in a time of 2:39:16.

 

A mere one second slower, Jack Bobridge ended in 14th place – it was a race decided by milliseconds.

 

"I really liked the circuit," said Bobridge after the finish. "It was good, but I was a little unlucky as one of the early starters to have wet corners for the first few and it cost me a bit of time. But that's bike racing. Now we move to the road stages and we have a great team for the rest of the week. Everyone is motivated and ready."

 

William Clarke (Drapac) set the benchmark of 2:34:27 that no one could topple, besting his winning time of last year by a full second. Runner-up last year Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) – the last rider to start - also bettered his 2015 time, but couldn't knock Clarke out of the hotseat and settled for second place again.

 

Neil Van der Ploeg (Avanti) rounded out the podium. 

 

Chris Froome after season debut: I just had to stay upright

Pete Kennaugh led the Team Sky challenge as the Herald Sun Tour kicked off with an opening prologue blast.

 

The Manxman continued his strong start to the season with eighth on the short, 2.1-kilometre Melbourne course. That time was just five seconds off the winning benchmark of two minutes and 34 seconds, set by William Clarke (Drapac).

 

Luke Rowe came in a second further back on Kennaugh, while Sebastian Henao and Chris Froome both set competitive times, seven and eight seconds down respectively.

 

The stage saw Froome kick off his 2016 season, with the reigning Tour de France champion admitting: "The main objective today was just to stay upright.

 

"I think the racing is still going to be decided over the next few days, and undoubtedly once we get to Arthur's Seat at the end that's going to be the big day."

 

Running between Federation Square and Queensbridge Square, then finishing along the Yarra River, the stage featured multiple surface changes and became slippy at points due to drops of rain.

 

"It was just under three minutes so it was a pretty short, intense sprint basically," Froome added. "It wasn't too technical. There were a couple of corners but it was pretty narrow and twisty. It was definitely a good ride from Will (Clarke) there to repeat his victory and win by one second. It's impressive.

 

"The crowds here have been massive - the same kind of thing you'd expect at the Tour. Everyone cheering for all the riders - that's what we want to see. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully the road goes uphill a bit more!"

 

Difficult start to the Sun Tour for Novo Nordisk

On Wednesday, Team Novo Nordisk took on the prologue at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour around Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia. Riders saw various conditions, including sun, wind and rain, as they tackled the 2.1-kilometer race against the clock. William Clarke (Drapac Professional Cycling) laid down the fastest time on the technical course in 2 minutes 34 seconds.

 

“We kicked off Sun Tour with a short prologue along the bike paths through inner Melbourne,” New Zealander Scott Ambrose says, “These short races are like kryptonite to me sometimes, and I just can’t seem to get going fast enough. But I’m look forward to the upcoming days!“

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