Reflecting a decade later, Clarke, now captain of national squad that will contest Sunday’s elite men’s road world championships in Yorkshire, England, has underlined the importance of team cohesion in Australia’s gold medal bid that Michael Matthews will spearhead.
“To compare it to footy, it’s like getting the Australian all-star team, throwing them together for the one match and that one match is the grand final. You’ve never raced together, or if you have it’s once a year, and then suddenly you’re in one of the most important matches,” the 33-year-old said.
“Team cooperation is the biggest factor in world championships. If you can be organised as a country you can have a really big advantage because there are a lot of countries with riders with their own mini objectives.”
Matthews has come close to joining Evans’s elite, one-man rainbow jersey club. He finished third at 2017 world titles and was fourth the year prior in Doha, Qatar. The 29-year-old took silver behind Slovakian Peter Sagan at the 2014 championships where he claimed Gerrans sprinted against rather than for him in the finale.
“It’s difficult to race the worlds with two leaders. It’s not really an option,” Clarke said.
Cycling Australia under high performance director Simon Jones has since placed a focus on team leadership and unification in an effort to restore the nation to world and Olympic glory.
Matthews is an outside favourite for Sunday’s undulating 280-kilometre race from Leeds to a 14km, seven-lap finishing circuit in Harrogate, with Clarke and Jack Haig also to have protected roles.
“I’ve had the best season of my career in terms of results. That’s given me a lot of confidence to be able to really prepare properly for the worlds,” Clarke said.
“It’s important to know the loop we do before we get to the circuit. Any kind of transfer we’ve done in world championships, to get to the final racing circuit, has normally been a warm-up so to speak. Whereas this is going to be pretty crucial.