Simon Clarke wins Herald Sun Tour after stage called off

Champion Simon Clarke poses with his trophy. Photo:
Champion Simon Clarke poses with his trophy. Photo:

''That's bike racing.'' It is an oft-used term in the sport of cycling that summarises how anything can happen and typically does.

On the last day of the 61st Herald Sun Tour, ''That's bike racing'' was employed in unprecedented fashion because there had actually been no racing at all.

The stage and performers were set, and the audience had arrived, but a three-lap final stage up and down Arthurs Seat at Victoria's Mornington Peninsula was called off because of fire danger.

On a day of extreme heat and winds, the threat was not in the area, but blazes elsewhere had forced a redeployment of emergency services that made a race up a hill that fire could engulf in seven minutes just too risky.

The instruction that proceedings should be halted came from Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay.

On Arthurs Seat, the news was announced by race director and three-time Sun Tour winner John Trevorrow, who described how he felt devastated but understood the decision entirely.

''We've got to think about the safety of everyone involved,'' a forlorn Trevorrow said after briefing 16 surprised team managers.

''But I'm devastated, of course. I was looking forward to this amazing stage up Arthurs Seat … especially for the fans, it was going to be something special, I reckon.''

Ultimately, all this amounted to Simon Clarke being crowned tour champion in the most anti-climactic of circumstances after it was deemed that overnight general classification standings would be the final results.

The 27-year-old Orica-GreenEDGE pro has helped teammates plenty over his career, but seldom has he had the chance to revel in individual glory as he planned to do on Sunday.

To his credit, Clarke said all the right things without showing even a hint of self-pity as a presentation ceremony was staged four hours earlier than scheduled.

''I was keen to race,'' he said, ''I think all the riders were. But obviously safety is a priority.''

Clarke even found an upside: assuming he had protected the eight-second buffer he'd established over runner-up Cameron Wurf, and the 11-second gap on third-placed Jack Haig, he and his GreenEDGE mates were going to enjoy a nice dinner in Melbourne on Sunday night.

The earlier finish meant they could go out for a leisurely lunch.

''I still get to stand on the podium. And for us it's still a great win,'' Clarke said.

His next major focus is Paris-Nice before he moves onto the April Ardennes classics.

This story Simon Clarke wins Herald Sun Tour after stage called off first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.