Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) could almost taste the podium spumante as they neared the finish line of stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia in Napoli – the pair had a 40-second lead on the peloton with 4km to go and it seemed as if the sprinters’ teams had miscalculated.
In the final kilometre, they glanced back to see the peloton barreling down on them and knew it was over. Clarke put in a half-hearted sprint but could only wince when Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) blasted past along with the eventual stage winner Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
The pain and frustration were evident on Clarke’s face as he spoke to the media at the finish. “We make so many sacrifices that it really hurts when you go so close to victory like that,” Clarke said.
In another interview, he reiterated: “It’s not nice to lose in that way, getting caught so close – I would have preferred to be caught with 10km to go than 200 metres,” before adding philosophically, “You can’t win them all but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”
The pair were part of a six-rider move that escaped in the opening kilometres in an attack started by the 36-year-old De Marchi, just 60 days Clarke’s senior. Along for part of the ride was 38-year-old Francesco Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa) and three much younger companions: Alexandre Delettre (Cofidis), 25, Charlie Quarterman (Corratec-Selle Italia), 24, and Alessandro Verre (Arkéa-Samsic), 21, although the latter was dropped on the category 2 Valico di Chiunzi with 100km to go.
De Marchi and Clarke got away on the Picco Sant’Angelo, perhaps undesirably, from the other three and had to spend some 70 kilometres fighting against the peloton along the Amalfi coast. The gaps seemed to be in their favour on a twisting, undulating stage as the terrible road surface caused havoc for the peloton with punctures, mechanicals and crashes the order of the day.
However, their luck ran out in the final straightaway and the pair’s efforts would not be reflected with 88th and 89th place at the back of the first peloton.
“The stage was suited to a breakaway and we almost pulled it off,” De Marchi said. “It was risky just the two of us going for it but it was the only thing we could do. It was disappointing that some of the young riders didn’t have the legs or courage to come with us.”
Between them, Clarke and De Marchi have five Grand Tour stage wins – De Marchi three in the Vuelta a España, Clarke one in the Spanish Grand Tour and one in last…
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