He didn’t get to lift the stone over his head on the podium Wednesday, but Simon Clarke does have a cobble to add to his trophy shelf thanks to the efforts of an unnamed good samaritan.
“A person who I probably shouldn’t name, so he doesn’t get in trouble, managed to organize a cobble for me from one of the sectors that we raced,” Clarke told CyclingTips from the start on Thursday, shortly after the stone had been dropped off at the Israel-PremierTech team bus.
“It’s pretty cool, a pretty special present,” he said. “He came here this morning at the bus.”
Clarke received the standard stage winner’s trophy and flowers after the stage on Wednesday, rather than some version of the famous cobblestone trophy used at Paris-Roubaix each spring.
We’ll leave the cobble Robin Hood unnamed as Tour de France organizer ASO frowns upon cobble theft. In fact, fans have been prosecuted for digging up and stealing Roubaix cobbles in the past. Under normal circumstances the act is selfish; if every Roubaix fan grabbed a cobble there would be none left in a season or two. But Clarke’s situation is quite different. CyclingTips’ official position on the matter is that winning a Tour de France cobble stage gives one the right to do what no fan should ever do, which is take a cobble home for the mantle.
Clarke was a surprise winner of the stage, which finished just in front of the entrance to the Arenberg Forest and featured 11 sectors of French pavé. Previously, Clarke only raced two editions of Paris-Roubaix in his long career, resulting in a DNF in 2011 and 55th in 2021. But he knew that Wednesday was a good day for the break, and was even more confident after taking stock of the strength around him. Taco van der Hoorn is a well-known breakaway specialist, Neilson Powless has a big motor, and Edvald Boasson Hagen spent years at the pinnacle of the sport.
“I really thought there was a good chance,” Clarke said. “And you saw the composition of that breakaway and the strength in it, and I thought they’re going to be flat out catching us.”
The peloton didn’t catch them, and Clarke timed his sprint to perfection, coming around Taco van der Hoorn and Boasson Hagen at the last moment. Now he has his own cobble to remember the day.