EF-Dra­pac stacked its team with big men to guide Rigob­erto Urán to the moun­tains with­out time loss. It al­most worked. Pro­cy­cling spoke to Si­mon Clarke, the rider who di­rected the re­sources


Si­mon Clarke, on be­ing road cap­tain of EF

In the first two stages, I was the wheel Rigo fol­lowed in the fi­nal.

I have quite spe­cific the­o­ries about where to ride in the bunch to avoid crashes and how to ap­proach fi­nals. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily in an en­er­gy­con­serv­ing man­ner, but in a safe man­ner to avoid in­ci­dents. Stage 1 was a mine­field but we weren’t at the front of the ar­row head and we didn’t crash. I did ex­tra home­work the night be­fore. When the di­rec­tor got to the end and saw Chris Froome and Nairo Quin­tana and Richie Porte had all lost time and we didn’t, they were like, “That went well” and we’re like, “You’ve got no idea!” Ev­ery­where we rode in that fi­nal was cal­cu­lated. It was the same the next day. Strat­egy and plan­ning is where I can have the big­gest in­flu­ence. Rigo can be at home train­ing and can do seven watts a kilo for how­ever long, but if I don’t de­liver him to the moun­tains in a win­ning po­si­tion, it doesn’t mat­ter how many watts he can do.

The sports di­rec­tors were keen I saved my­self on stage 4.

I agreed with that. I handed over re­spon­si­bil­ity to lead Rigo into the fi­nal of stage 4 [Sarzeau] to the other boys. Rigo crashed and by no means was it any­one’s fault but I made a mis­take by not be­ing in­volved. I feel that if I had been in­volved we would’ve been in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion in the fi­nal. But be­tween all the team-mates who were in­volved in help­ing him back, I don’t think we said one word to each other. Rigo crashed and Daniel Martinez was al­ready stand­ing there with his bike. A cou­ple of oth­ers were get­ting up off the ground. I just missed the crash and was ready to help. It was like rolling off a ramp in a team time trial: we were all ready to go. I’m so glad Rigo didn’t lose time.

On stage 5 I was in my el­e­ment be­cause I love the Clas­sics. I’ve

done them every year since I turned pro­fes­sional. When they said stage 5 was a mini-Am­s­tel that was ring­ing bells for me. I know how to ride Am­s­tel and I had guys to help me help Rigo. I just made sure I didn’t get car­ried away and just rode the same way I rode Am­s­tel. Even though it was re­ally twisty roads I found that one of the eas­ier days to lead the team – and the day af­ter as well at Mûr-de-Bre­tagne. Rigo lost a frac­tion of time there, but I think that was mainly due to be­ing badly po­si­tioned. I counted back and when Richie Porte ac­cel­er­ated, Rigo was 23rd or 24th wheel and that’s a lit­tle bit too far back when you can’t trust guys in front of you to not drop wheels.

The pavé stage was ex­tracur­ric­u­lar.

My ideas about rid­ing fi­nals go out the win­dow when you’re rac­ing cob­bles. I re­lied heav­ily on Sep Van­mar­cke and Tay­lor Phin­ney and they did an awe­some job. Un­til 30km to go we had the per­fect race. We were al­ways in the front; we had no crashes, no one punc­tured and ev­ery­one helped – even Pierre [Rol­land] had an awe­some ride. There was 100 per cent com­mit­ment from the team but un­for­tu­nately Rigo came un­stuck on a cou­ple of

cor­ners. By the time he was stood up, I’d given him my bike and we had four other team-mates there to ride him back. In the end he didn’t get back but we were or­gan­ised as a team. With­out that you have no chance at all.

I still see so many teams where guys are just los­ing min­utes – even in this Tour.

Dan Martin crashed and lost 1:15 [stage 8]. There were pho­tos of him wait­ing for a bike. Or Il­nur Zakarin, who was in the same crash as Rigo [stage 4] and he lost 1:05 when Rigo lost noth­ing. Sky do it so well. Not only do they have re­ally strong riders but they ride united. Even if you don’t have the same riders as them, you don’t have to sit on the front of the whole Tour to win the Tour de France, but you have to have a united team. There are def­i­nitely things to take away from Sky and in­te­grate into your team in a dif­fer­ent style.

In the last cou­ple of years I was at Orica, I started do­ing some of the stuff road cap­tains do un­of­fi­cially.

I saw a gap be­tween what the di­rec­tors wanted to be done and I re­ally wanted to make sure that guys were hon­our­ing their roles dur­ing the race. I al­ways try to do it in a con­struc­tive way. Peo­ple aren’t tak­ing of­fence but at the same time they’re get­ting the job done.

I came to this team see­ing guys with pretty big per­sonal am­bi­tions and I re­ally saw a lack of in-race co­her­ence.

That’s why I’ve made such a big ef­fort in these last cou­ple of years in the Ride Ar­gyle fam­ily to try and unite riders on the road. Hav­ing raced against them for so many years, I felt like that was one of their weak­nesses. They had some strong riders but they al­ways had very lit­tle sup­port. They al­ways had one or two com­mit­ted guys and the rest were kind of float­ing around. You can drill a race plan as hard as you want into a team on the bus, but once they’re sent out onto the race what they do is pretty much out of your con­trol.

It’s not easy to tell peo­ple what to do when you are the road cap­tain.

It is es­pe­cially so in a sport where you’re deal­ing with egos and per­sonal am­bi­tions and you’re try­ing to con­vince them to work for some­one else. But it’s all done through friend­ships. There’s no dif­fer­ence be­tween me and the other riders, it’s just that I’m re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing de­ci­sions. I re­ally en­joy mak­ing de­ci­sions, and I’m the first to ad­mit it if I make a wrong de­ci­sion. I find a lot of guys hes­i­tate, or are not sure, or ask a team-mate…you just can’t hes­i­tate. You’re bet­ter off mak­ing a wrong de­ci­sion quickly than hes­i­tat­ing. I see that with guys that lead other teams; they might have a bag of ex­pe­ri­ence but you have to make crunch de­ci­sions. They some­times strug­gle on mak­ing that call.

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