• Simon Clarke's road captain role has become weightier since Uran became a bona fide GC contender (AAP)Source: AAP
Simon Clarke is shouldering a heavier responsibility than initially expected in his return to the Tour de France, where he is governing dark-horse title contender Rigoberto Uran.
Sophie Smith

17 Jul 2017 - 8:40 AM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2017 - 8:58 AM

Clarke is road captain of the Cannondale-Drapac team, which was initially sold as an opportunistic squad. They competed as such in the opening stint of the race, nearly always a feature in doomed breakaways.

Heading into the final week of racing, however, the squad has backed Colombian Uran as a bona fide GC contender. Uran sits fourth overall and just 29 seconds off defending champion and current maillot jaune Chris Froome (Sky) with the Alps on the horizon.

Stage 15 Tour scare for Froome
A mechanical put the fear of God in Chris Froome and saw the Briton put in a “full-on race effort” to close a consequential gap and keep the Yellow Jersey on stage 15 of the Tour de France.
Dark horse Martin on the GC comeback trail
Dan Martin (QuickStep) cemented his general classification credentials on the run in to Le Puy-en-Velay today, attacking the elite group in the closing kilometres to move up one place on GC.

Clarke, who competed at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana over the Tour last year, said the happy circumstance hasn’t changed how he has performed his role, or the instructions he has given on the road. However, the stakes are now considerably higher than they were at the Grand Depart in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“There are bigger consequences in a bad decision so from my end it makes me have to think twice before every decision and make sure always that we’re in an advantageous position,” he said.

“Once suddenly you’re in a position like Rigo is, any time you’re in a bad position the other teams will try and profit from that whereas before if he was caught out of position they probably wouldn’t care.

“But now being where he is and the form he has shown if at any stage we are in a vulnerable position other teams are going to try and profit so we need to make sure we avoid those situations, which so far we have been able to.”

Uran has previously performed well in Grand Tours, especially the Giro d’Italia where he has twice finished second overall and was seventh last season with Cannondale-Drapac despite being sick for 10 days.

The 30-year-old has comparatively less career experience at the Tour, but it has made no difference here this year. Uran has attested to his pedigree not only with his standing on the overall but also a stage nine photo finish victory against Warren Barguil (Sunweb) in Chambery.

Uran, unlike some of his rivals, is also a handy time trialist, which may further shorten his odds and deficit to Froome on the penultimate day of competition.

“I think we’re still in a position where it’s not like we need to take control and take over the race. We came in as an opportunistic team because Rigo had a quiet build-up to this race having only raced Route du Sud,” Clarke said. “The team knew he was going well but how well is impossible to know. Objectives are ongoingly changing due to Rigo’s good performances.

“We are still an opportunistic team but obviously Rigo’s GC position is now the main priority.”