Philadelphia, PA - From an end-of-the-season Grand Tour victory to a first-of-the-year World Tour win, Fuji proved today - perhaps more than ever - that it belongs in the pro peloton.
Staying away for an entire stage, Will Clarke - racing for Uni-SA (University of South Australia national team) before joining his Champion System teammates - triumphantly crossed the Tour Down Under's Stage 2 finish line Wednesday atop his Fuji SST 3.0: a bike he received just days before the start of the race from Fuji distributor Oceania Bicycles.
Oceania Managing Director David Hall couldn't be more thrilled with the win, not only for what it means for the country but what it means for the Fuji brand.
"We are ecstatic that an Aussie won right here on home turf. Clarke wowed the world today with such a dominant and inspired ride. Everyone at Fuji Australia is very proud and feels as if we played a little part in this great victory."
He added, "What I think is really worth noting is that the frame and fork Clarke raced on are the stock frame from an SST 3.0 - a mid-level bike that is clearly ready to win at the Pro Tour level."
Clarke broke away from the peloton only 1 kilometer into the 148-km stage from Lobethal to Stirling.
The initial break consisted of Clarke and Martin Kohler of BMC. While Kohler ate up the initial sprint points, Clarke claimed victory on the Category 2 Lenswood climb and then dropped Kohler, pushing ahead solo.
His lead peaked at a remarkable 12 minutes and heading into the final circuit, he retained a more than 10-minute lead.
While it significantly diminished in the final lap, an exhausted Clarke refused to give up. As the finish line came into sight, he was greeted by what many called a "hero's welcome," an eruption of cheers for the underdog who left an unsuspecting peloton in the dust.
The 26-year-old's first-ever victory on the World Tour stage, Clarke called the win simply "unbelievable" and the "biggest win of his career." He now leads both the Sprints Classification and the KOM heading into the Tour's final four stages.
"What a great way to start the season. The first of many wins, I hope," said Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon.
This is the second time Fuji has won a stage at the Tour Down Under, the first under Manuel Cardoso in Stage 3 of the TDU 2010. Both Cardoso and Clarke won aboard Fuji's aero carbon bike, the SST.
Watch Clarke power through the final kilometers - 1 minute ahead of his nearest chasers - HERE!
Learn what Clarke's Champion System teammates have been up to at Fuji's pro team blog: www.fujibikes.com/proteam. Photos and insider details from Team Training Camp coming tomorrow!