The 31-year-old is one of three riders that will capitalise on Drapac’s five-year, co-title sponsorship deal with ProTeam Cannondale and effectively feed through to the WorldTour in 2017.
Clarke has dabbled in the WorldTour previously and next season will be looking to make a firm impression that will allow him to stay. The Tasmanian made his WorldTour debut as a stagiaire with AG2R in 2010 before signing for a season with Leopard-Trek in 2011 and the same again with Argos-Shimano when it rose to prominence with German sprinter Marcel Kittel in 2013.
Clarke has earned another shot at the top league, performing consistently with Professional Continental squad Drapac this year. His wins included the prologue and first leader’s jersey at the Herald Sun Tour in February, two stages of the Tour of Taiwan in March, the prologue and first leader’s jersey in July’s Tour of Austria as well as a victory in stage three of the Tour of Portugal.
“Fortunately or unfortunately a few of our riders got across to that team, we’ve fed three there,” Giramondo said of the transfers that also Brendan Canty and Kiwi Tom Scully.
“I’d like to see Will Clarke go really well, I think he’s got the potential to win races.”
Canty will make his WorldTour debut following four seasons racing the Australian domestic circuit. The 24-year-old hinted at his climbing potential at the Tour of Oman in February where he finished eighth in the queen stage to Green Mountain and within a top 10 that boasted Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
“He’s a good climber. Put him in the right position at the right time and he might snag one,” Giramondo observed.
Scully competed as a trainee for Garmin-Sharp, an incarnation of the current squad, in 2012 and so is effectively returning to Jonathan Vaughters’s fold. The Commonwealth Games track gold medallist also marked success with Drapac this year, claiming a stage of the Boucles de la Mayenne in June.
Giramondo has said he personally will not join the Cannondale-Drapac venture, staying and working the National Road Series with Pat’s Veg.
Despite Cannondale’s dry run at all three Grand Tours this year, Giramondo believes the American-registered outfit has the framework in place to build a competitive general classification squad.
“They’ve got the infrastructure, it’s mainly just a bit of luck winning some races,” he said. “This year, the latter part of the year, they actually did strike some form. They’re a work in progress to try and find their GC rider that’s going to take them to the top.”