VeloVeritas didn’t make it to the recent Drummond Trophy, for which we offer our apologies to Mr, Norrie Drummond, one of the sport’s staunchest supporters and a former competitor himself – you can read of his Flemish exploits ‘back in the day‘.
It would be rude of us to let ‘The Drummond’ pass without a mention, so with the aid of ex-Cervelo and Raleigh professional, not to mention friend of VV, Dan Fleeman we got in touch with the 2014 Drummond’s winner – English professional Dave Clarke (KTM Cycling Team).
Said Mr. Clarke is something of a legend in English cycling, I remember at the 2010 British Elite Championships on the brutal Pendle course, after Sky did their usual early disappearing act with Geraint Thomas winning from Peter Kennaugh and Ian Stannard; Clarke (riding for Le Col) and Fleeman (Raleigh) chased all day but to no avail.
But Clarke seemed to get stronger as the race went on with Dan explaining; ‘if the race was another 100 miles, all those Sky boys would be laying beside the road and Dave would have won by 10 minutes!’
As well as being team mates with Mr. Fleeman in France, he’s spent time with ACBB in Paris, raced for a Spanish team on the Portuguese border and even lived in Guadeloupe for a spell.
And there have been some nice results – the GP d’Auger, Tour of Cameroun and a Tour d’Alsace stage as but three examples.
But no ‘big break’ and Division One or Two ride.
When I phoned Dave, I expected to be chatting to some sort of wild man – maybe it’s the hair? – in fact, he was softly spoken and polite; here’s what he had to say to us…
Congratulations on the win, Dave – why Scotland and The Drummond?
“It’s a nice event, I’ve done it a few times and it’s a good race.
“There wasn’t much on in England so we came up – it’s good prep for the Rutland.”
Tell us about the race.
“The team strategy was that were going to try and split it in the crosswind but there were a lot of attacks going very early so I went with a small group within a mile of the start.
“The break grew to five or six and we shared the work well – I was probably the strongest but I wasn’t sure what would happen in a sprint.
“We couldn’t relax because we had the likes of the Downings and Evan Oliphant behind us.
“By the end we were down to two of us and I edged Peter Murdoch in the sprint – I guess I was away for 88 of the 89 miles…”
How did the event compare to a Premier Calendar race?
“It was a good quality field but there wasn’t the depth you’d get in a Premier – in a Premier all the teams are there and all the full time guys.
“I’d say the organisation was the equal of a Premier, though and the prize fund was good.
“I’ve always liked racing in Scotland, my mum lives in Dumfries and I’ve ridden the Girvan and Doon Hame in the past.”
You raced with Dan Fleeman in France in 2004; he said you were consistently in the top 10?
“Yes, I had decent results in France but the opening never came up – I tried to make it on the continent for a few years but at that time it was difficult for a British guy to break in.”
You won the 2009 Tour of Cameroun.
“Yeah, racing in Africa is a real experience with the heat – and the organisation isn’t like it is in Europe.
“It was almost two weeks long, I took the lead early and managed to hang on to it.”
You were an Endura man in 2010.
“Yeah, we rode a good programme – San Luis, Tour of the Med, Haut Var, Murcia, Coppi Bartali…
“But I was actually with Endura back in 2003, too – with Harry Lodge and Alex Coutts.”
In 2011 you were with Phil Griffiths at Node 4.
“I’ve known Phil for 20 years; I was working in a bike shop at the time and gave him a call.
“Again, the programme was good; we rode the Ras – where I won the King of the Mountains – The Tour de Beauce in Canada and the Tour of Britain.”
Synergy Baku for 2013 – an exotic programme.
“Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Latvia, China, Borneo – and I was third in the Tour of East Java.
“That was a nice little race with two hill top finishes so you didn’t lose what you gained on the descents.
“There was a lot of travelling involved, I certainly got to see the world; but there was no contract renewal for me – the team was changing focus for 2014.”
How’s the KTM programme looking?
“After the Lincoln we have races in France, Slovenia, Poland and Austria before the Nationals.
“In the UK we have the Tour and Crit series city centre races – that’s the sport’s shop window, I understand that but one hour races aren’t the best for me.”
What’s still on the DC ‘to do’ list?
“I’ve been top six in the National on four occasions so I think I’m capable of a podium.
“The National is in Wales again – I won the Junior Tour of Wales back in the day – so I’m looking forward to that.
“The last time it was there – in 2009 when Kristian House won – I was in the group behind the winning break.
“I think I have a reasonable ride in the Tour of Britain in me and I’d still like to perform on the European stage.”
Dan says we have to ask you about the time you ‘overshot’ your mum’s house when you pedalled up to see her.
“Well, it was always going to be a long run – I was living in Branston in Staffordshire and mum was in Moffat.
“I rode over the Peak District, past The Lakes and on to Penrith – but I took the wrong road and was heading for Edinburgh.
“I guess I went maybe 20 K too far – so it wasn’t that bad, I was on 399 K at mum’s door.
“It was the first ride of the winter with a block head wind and rain; so after that run every other ride was going to be easy…”
As Malcolm Elliott said of Clarke, in an article I read in edition 41 of Rouleur magazine, when discussing why the man had never landed a big money deal;
‘You have to be able to conform with teams. Conforming is a big part of making a rider attractive to teams.’
‘He’d have to adapt to a system – and he’s created his own system. It could have been different, but then it wouldn’t have been Dave, would it?’
Amen to that, Malcolm.