Australian Simon Clarke has returned to Europe after the Israel-Premier Tech team rescued his professional cycling career by signing him to a one-year deal.
The squad of four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome confirmed they had acquired the services of Clarke, who was left stranded last month when Team Qhubeka folded.
Clarke was using this month’s Australian races as the last chance to pitch himself to WorldTour teams and extend his extensive pro career.
The 35-year-old raced on the weekend at the Bay Classic Series in Geelong.
He was also scheduled to compete on Sunday in the men’s elite national championships road race at Buninyong, near Ballarat, and then head to Adelaide for the Santos Festival of Cycling.
But he was on a flight to Spain soon after the Bay Classic races to join Israel-Premier Tech at their pre-season training camp.
“Firstly, I’m happy to have found a team. But secondly, I’m happy to have ended up in a team that I would have chosen to go to in the normal transfer window,” Clarke said in a team statement.
“So I’m not only happy that I can keep racing in the WorldTour, but happy with where I have ended up.
“In terms of goals, I can’t really say too much before I’ve had meetings with the team, but I’m coming in with a pretty open mind in the fact that I will be happy with anything I do and will make the most of it.
“The one thing that this period of uncertainty that I’ve been through has really made me appreciate, is the good fortune I’ve had in my career. It has made me more grateful for having a good ride and making the most of it.”
Clarke is a two-time stage winner at the Vuelta a Espana and also renowned for his crucial role as a team’s road captain.
“Simon will not only play an important role in helping our team leaders to win, but he will also have the chance to go for personal results,” team general manager Kjell Carlstrom said.
“We see him adding significant value through his ability to contribute to the team’s results.”