• Clark sings to lead

    PACKED: Beechworth’s Matt Clark, in the Satalyst Verve jersey, stays with the peloton in the opening stages of the Cycling Australia Road Nationals at Buninyong near Ballarat on Sunday. The 24-year-old is hoping for a ride in the Herald Sun Tour in February before eyeing the 2016 Oceania Road Championships in March and the NRS, which begins at the end of April.

    BEECHWORTH rider Matt Clark has made a superb start to 2016 with new team Satalyst Verve, placing top 10 in both the road race and individual time trial at the Cycling Australia Road Nationals in Buninyong.
    In Sunday’s gruelling road race, staged in 35-degree heat, Clark, 24, was one of just 15 riders to complete the 183.6km journey from 175 starters.
    The race was split early, with eventual winner Jack Bobridge part of a 21-man bunch that broke away on the first of 18 laps.
    Clark, who stayed with the peloton following the movements of pre-race favourites Richie Porte and Simon Gerrans, said the gap soon saw riders start to drop out.
    “It only took 15 minutes to do a lap of the course, and the gap was steadily growing,” Clark said.
    “After one lap it was 43 seconds and by the end of the second lap it was out to three minutes.
    “By about the sixth lap it was around nine minutes, and by that point you’ve got the prospect of people being lapped.
    “You combine that with the difficult conditions – it was extremely hot – and the attrition rate was very high.”
    Clark, who had the same Ed Sheeran song stuck in his head for nearly five hours, simply focused on doing what he could to stay in the race.
    “On a long day there isn’t much to keep you entertained – I think it was the last song that was played before we rolled out and it just got stuck in my head,” he said.
    “I was listening out for something to try and get a different song in there, but no luck.
    “In the bunch the pressure was mounting and it got to the point where if the pace didn’t lift the whole bunch could get pulled out of the race, so the hammer really dropped in that middle third.
    “From that point on people started dropping off the back and the numbers thinned with each lap, until with six or seven laps to go there weren’t too many left.
    “By that stage the fatigue really set in and you start to have moments of weakness, but you just have to eat and drink and just ride your way through it.”
    With Bobridge well out in front on his own for the last half of the race, Clark said tactics changed amid the heavily reduced peloton.

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