Clarke aiming to continue successful Tour Down Under form in Qatar and Oman
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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Clarke aiming to continue successful Tour Down Under form in Qatar and Oman

by VeloNation Press at 7:51 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Australian part of Champion System team in both events

Will ClarkeTour Down Under stage winner Will Clarke will officially get his time with the Champion System team underway on Sunday when he lines out as part of the squad for the Tour of Qatar.

The 26 year old Australian showed his strength when he soloed to a superb win on stage two of the WorldTour event, riding that race as part of the UniSA-Australia squad. After his contract with the Leopard Trek team was not renewed, he’s determined to prove a point this year and has already started on a perfect note with that victory.

“I'm pretty happy with how the race went and it has given me some renewed confidence in myself for this year,” he said, preparing for his debut with the Chinese squad.

“I have not raced Qatar or Oman, from what I hear they are hard and pretty fast, with Qatar usually being decided by strong cross winds,” he said. “Of the two races, I am looking forward to Oman more because there will be more variation in the course and it should suit me better. I am also looking forward to seeing what I can do there and also racing with my new team-mates."

General manager Ed Beamon suggests that it might take a little time to settle in, but he said that the team is determined to put in the work and to gel together. “We know it’s a difficult race and will require a lot of focus, but I think we have a strong and a fast team,” he stated. “We’ll be looking to make the splits and the team will work hard at the finishes. No doubt it is a very hard way to start the team’s competitive life, but we’re bringing an experienced group and we’re not taking anything for granted.”

Champion SystemClarke will line out on Sunday with compatriot Aaron Kemps, who raced with Astana in the past, as well as the Kiwi Clinton Avery, Belgian Classic rider Gorik Gardeyn, Matthias Friedemann (Germany), Mart Ojavee (Estonia) and the Chinese duo Xu Gang and Jiao Pengda.

The team will be practically identical for the Tour of Oman, running from February 14th to 19th, but American rider Chris Butler will replace Kemps there.

According to Beamon, that second race gives a better opportunity to his team. “I’m looking forward to Oman. It may be a little better venue for us, and I think we have a good shot at a stage victory there,” he said.

The squad recently held a training camp to prepare for the season, and also held a team presentation last week in Hong Kong.

Champion System is the first ever ProContinental team from Asia, and has been set up with the goal of gaining a WorldTour licence within four years.

Riding the Tour de France is a major aim for the team and while there is no history of an Asian team in the event, the fact that the economy there is a strong one and globalization is taking place in the sport suggests that it’s only a matter of time before teams from other parts of the globe will be in cycling’s top events.

With that in mind, Beamon is hoping that more sponsors get on board in time and increase the budget. This in turn will enable the team to expand its lineup.

Encouragingly, he’s pleased with the exposure the team is getting thus far. “I am amazed at the overwhelming reception the team received at both the Beijing and Hong Kong presentations,” he said. “It's very rewarding to see how the mainstream media has already embraced the team and shown its enthusiasm for the new project.”


Champion System roster for upcoming races:

Tour of Qatar (Feb 5-10):


Clinton Avery (NZL), Chris Butler (USA), Will Clarke (AUS), Matthias Friedemann (GER), Xu Gang (CHN), Gorik Gardeyn (BEL), Mart Ojavee (EST), Jiao Pengda (CHN).

Tour of Oman (Feb 15-19)
:

Clinton Avery (NZL), Chris Butler (USA), Will Clarke (AUS), Matthias Friedemann (GER), Xu Gang (CHN), Gorik Gardeyn (BEL), Mart Ojavee (EST), Jiao Pengda (CHN).

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