It promised to be one for the history books. Still somewhat caught in a state of suspense and disappointment, Anthony Tan vacillates over the after effects from this year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

So… we're all left ruminating what might have been at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

It would be both ignorant and disrespectful to suggest Simon Clarke, the overall winner, would have capitulated on the final of three ascents of Arthurs Seat; a ferocious attack one-and-a-half kilometres from the line, delivered by Avanti wunderkind Jack Haig, leaving the Orica-GreenEDGE rider and second-placed overall at the start of Sunday's stage, Cameron Wurf of Cannondale, in his wake, reeling.

No, more than likely, Clarke, who, after grabbing the mountains classification at the 2012 Vuelta, has come into his own as a rouleur-puncheur of some repute, would have held his own. But the possibility was there; with the wind swirling between 50-90km/h that day, the possibility for a showdown that would go down in Sun Tour folklore was on the cards.

Even Wurf, although reticent to admit it, told me afterwards he was quietly backing himself. The harder the conditions, the better were his chances.

The decisive second stage to Bendigo would not have been decisive if it wasn't for him – which explains why Clarke and Haig waited on the climb of Mount Alexander, allowing Wurf to bridge across and do the locomotion all the way to Haig's hometown, much to the chagrin of Garmin-Sharp and Drapac, who, try as they did, could not catch the trio, effectively ending Nathan Haas' chances of a repeat victory in what he calls "probably my favourite race in the whole world".

Clarke, following this victory and his performance at last year's road worlds in Florence, where he finished seventh to Rui Costa of Portugal, has established himself as a definitive Ardennes Classics co-leader at OGE. Which is a good thing because the past two years, I often felt that, if it were not for Simon Gerrans, GreenEDGE would have been in the Land of Nowhere.

In his seventh year as a pro, and with a team that supports him when required, it feels the 27-year-old is on the cusp of realising something big. I honestly don't think a podium in the Ardennes is beyond him this European spring, likewise at the road worlds in Ponferrada, Spain, the course not dissimilar to that raced in Florence, and with a two-pronged attack, pressure to perform is not limited to him only.

So watch this space, for Clarke will only get better the next few years, and thus improve on his top-tens to top-fives and podiums. I can also envisage an event like Paris-Nice suiting him to a T, which he happens to be going to this year, and following his Sun Tour success, will no doubt enter with augmented ambitions. The Gerrans-Clarke dual-pronged approach has now become a more sound, and less risky, strategy for OGE; one that will almost certainly continue their streak of success, ever since sport director Matthew White returned to the fold at last year's Tour de France.

Still, there are two fronts for improvement.

GreenEDGE do not possess a sprinter the calibre of Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, Peter Sagan or Mark Cavendish. There is still a question mark over Matthew Goss, and whether he can rediscover his winning ways before management run out of patience; Michael Matthews, on the other hand, after a breakthrough 2013 season, needs to get quicker still if he's to compete with the aforementioned big boys, who invariably find themselves in a league of their own. Yes, Caleb Ewan, arguably Australia's hottest sprinting prospect, is coming across mid-year to OGE, but as his foray into the WorldTour showed at the Tour Down Under, don't expect him to match Marcel, arse-kick André, paste Peter, or conquer Cav', for at least two more seasons yet.

Then there's the never-ending question about a bona-fide GC rider, and an Australian one at that.

They didn't get Cadel, and probably never will. They didn't get Richie, and probably won't ever will. Nathan Earle, although it's too early to say what will become of him, they didn't get him either, and probably won't ever will.

As for Haig (yes, that guy everyone's saying is the next Cadel even though he's ridden just one WorldTour race where he finished 17th place and two minutes behind Gerrans), well, he's recently acquired an agent in Andrew McQuaid, One Son of Pat, and if you look at where riders under his team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston's tutelage have gone on to, it'd probably be a safe bet to say he isn't going to GreenEDGE, either. Not to mention Haig is a good buddy of Earle, and Earle is good buddy of Porte…

Anyway, as disappointingly anti-climatic as it was to not have the queen stage of the Herald Sun Tour come to being, that so many riders, sport directors and members of the public I spoke to thought it was nonetheless a superb race supports the theory that 'the Sunny' is where it should be – in early February following the Tour Down Under, and containing at least three WorldTour teams.

Though if I was nitpicking, which I'm prone to do, I would like to see four next year.