Q&A: Simon Clarke on signing with Israel-Premier Tech

CyclingTips chats to the 35-year-old Aussie about his last-minute contract.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

A couple of weeks ago, with the new year just around the corner, 35-year-old Simon Clarke didn’t have a contract. He’d been due to ride with Qhubeka-NextHash for another year, but when that team folded, Clarke was left high and dry. Early retirement was looking like a very real possibility.

We now know that Clarke will ride on in 2022 – WorldTour team Israel-Premier Tech today announced that it has signed the Australian. CyclingTips caught up with Clarke to talk about the last-minute deal and what it means to him. When we spoke, Clarke had just arrived in Girona for a training camp with his new team after a whirlwind trip from Australia, via a quick stop in Milan to drop off his family.

Matt de Neef: How did this new contract come about? When did that all happen?

Simon Clarke: Well, basically after I chatted with you and with Chris from Cycling Weekly word kind of got out. That initiated the conversations here with Israel. I had been in contact with them last year and so we kind of already knew of each other and had spoken before. So that helped get the ball rolling pretty quickly.

Obviously every team’s budget’s pretty much finalised in mid-October, when they had to submit all the documents to the UCI, so any additions after that, they need to reassess the budget and whatnot. So there was a bit of that to be done before we could figure everything out but in the end it was all good.

I’m really happy to be in this team and it would have been one of my first choices had I been able to choose any team in the transfer window.

What do you like about the team? What are you excited about?

They’re a relatively new team to the WorldTour and every year they’ve just been stepping it up and they’re just on such an interesting trajectory, I believe. I think they were even up to nearly 10th – 10th or 11th in the WorldTour last year. WorldTour cycling is becoming nearly Formula One-like in many ways and to be competitive, it doesn’t happen overnight.

I really think that they’re building up a terrific base and infrastructure here that will definitely show its fruits in the years to come. And so to be able to come on board and bring the experience that I have and join this progression is pretty exciting.

How do you see your role with the team? Will it be focused on helping out the young guys, like we talked about last time?

There will definitely be an element of that. I’m keen to come on and provide support. Like we said, there’s so many young guys getting signed up and there are so many young talented guys. Being one of those guys, that’s kind of been around, so to speak, to see that they have talent and have power, but to see everywhere else they’re lacking … it’s really motivating to be able to come on board and really try and guide them in the right direction at the same time. So that’s definitely a big motivation.

How are you feeling now? I imagine signing a contract is a relief after the stress of the last little while?

Yeah, of course. It was definitely a challenging period for me these last couple of months, and it’s forced me to reflect a lot on my whole career and why I do this job and what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning. And, you know, it really proved to myself that I do love what I do and I do do it for the passion. And that was why I was able to keep training and keep preparing as though I had a pro contract, even though I didn’t.

So I’m coming into this [team] camp and in no way feel like I’m behind. If anything, I feel like I’m ahead of where I normally am at this time of year. So from that point of view, I’m ready to hit the ground running.

Do you have an idea of the races you’ll do this year? Or is it still too early?

Yeah, I mean, I literally only flew in last night! *laughing* So I still haven’t even had a chance to meet every single person in the team. I haven’t had a chance to go into those [race] details yet.

But yeah, to be honest, over the 13 years I’ve been in the WorldTour, I’ve pretty much done every single race there is on the calendar. And so I have no worries in any race that they send me to, but I’ll make the most of it.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.