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Israeli cycling team snags razor-thin win in Tour de France

Riding for the Israel-Premier Tech team, Australian cyclist Simon Clarke won the fifth stage of the 2022 Tour de France on Wednesday 

Israel-Premier Tech's Simon Clarke celebrates after winning stage 5 Tour de France, July 6, 2022 (Photo: Pool via Reuters/Tim De Waele)

Side by side on the finish line with competitor Taco van der Hoorn, Clarke used a bike throw to secure the win. Moments before, the Australian had surged past Neilson Powless from the professional American cycling team, the EF Education-EasyPost. 

Clarke’s win marked the Israeli team’s best achievement in the famous, annual 2,200-mile, 21-day cycling race, since Israel qualified to compete in 2020.

The Wednesday victory capped about 97.5 miles of cycling, from the French city of Lille to Arenberg, Belgium, including about 12.4 difficult miles on cobbled roads. Clarke completed the course in three hours, 13 minutes and 35 seconds.

“Half a year ago, I was without a team; no man took me until I got a last-minute offer from Israel-Premier Tech, which believed in me, and now I came back to the group,” the veteran cyclist said. “I’m still having trouble processing or believing … It’s unbelievable!”

Clarke last raced for South Africa’s UCI WorldTeam, Qhubeka-NextHash, until the cycling team collapsed last fall after failing to find the necessary financial sponsors.

After a 20-year cycling career in Europe, 35-year-old Clarke began searching for a “late-hour racing contract,” reported CyclingTips. 

“I just feel like I’m not done with cycling yet, and I feel like I have got more to give, both from a personal point of view and from passing on knowledge to the younger generation,” he told CyclingTips last year.

While faced with the possible end of his cycling career, Clarke was recruited by the Israeli team at the last moment.

“To have Israel ring me up and say, ‘We’ll give you that chance,’ just gives you such a reality check to make the most of every opportunity,” Clarke said. “I moved to Europe when I was 16 – and I turn 36 on the second rest day [July 18]. That’s 20 years in Europe and the dream finally came true!”

“To be honest, to start with, I didn’t think I had won,” he said. “I was still a long way behind Taco with only a few meters to go, and I just threw the bike as hard as I could at that finish line. I still didn’t believe it until I saw the photo finish.”

“What a day. I never expected to win a cobblestone stage. Especially because they only happen every four years or so. I am happy with any stage and just try to make the most of these opportunities,” he said.

“What a rollercoaster this year has been,” Clarke noted. “But sometimes you don’t get the best out of yourself until you are put under extra pressure. I am an optimistic person and I try and always believe that things happen for a reason. This winter was a bit challenging but I found a solution, and I promised to never look back and make the most of every opportunity, and that’s what I did today.”

Previously, Clarke won a King of the Mountains award, a climbing-specialist designation. He was a double-stage winner in La Vuelta a España, and held the lead briefly in the Giro d’Italia in 2015.

The Israel-Premier Tech cycling team was founded as the Israel Start-Up Nation team in 2014, by Israeli businessman Ron Baron and former rider Ran Margaliot. 

The team has attracted top-level competitive cyclists from all over the world, including Israel. Today, there are eight riders in the team, including Israeli Guy Niv and Jacob Fuglsang from Denmark. 

Canadian company Premier Tech partnered with the team for the 2022 season, lending their name to the team title.

Another Israeli cyclist in the Premier Tech team, 25-year-old Omer Goldstein, was scheduled to participate but had to walk away after exposure to COVID-19. He was replaced with Canadian Guillaume Boivin, 33.

Israel’s Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov took to social media to praise the win as a boon for Israeli tourism. 

“Congratulations to @IsraelPremTech cycling team on an historic Stage win today at @LeTour,” he tweeted. “@simonclarke thanks for an impressive ride. The exposure you bring is a great gift to expanding Israeli tourism.”

Read more: SPORTS

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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