With a ’100% possibility of rain’ forecast on local media channels last night, there was never any doubt about the wet conditions riders would face today. Still, the downpour at the start area only revealed its impact on the roads once the race was active. Less than three kilometres outside of the neutral zone, officials were forced to cancel this stage.
IMAGES: Aaron Lee
Once it became apparent to race officials that variations on the road surface could potentially be hidden by surface flooding, thereby putting riders at risk, an intense discussion over race radio was held. Having already passed through the 3.7km neutral zone, the peloton was audibly confused about why the race director’s red paddle was still held aloft; several riders took turns to pull alongside official cars to seek clarification.
When a small number of cyclists decided to take a nature break, this prompted the entire group to grind to a halt in the middle of the road. Though the decision to cancel was reached fairly quickly, it took several minutes to communicate the stage’s annulment across the convoy and its many spoken languages. More than one rider expressed a desire to continue the stage, but the decision had been made.
Race organiser KSPO made the following statement regarding the decision soon after the teams arrived back to the hotel in the start city of Yeosu. Cycling iQ has been asked to communicate this in English:
Due to adverse weather conditions, Tour de Korea race officials made the difficult decision to cancel today’s fourth stage from Yeosu to Geochang shortly after the race left the neutralized zone.
Very heavy rainfall, surface flooding and high wind gusts impeded course visibility and caused potentially destabilising conditions in a bunch-riding situation. The possibility of riders taking unnecessary risks to complete the stage meant no other decision, other than cancellation, was possible.
Organizers of Tour de Korea supported the decision, emphasising that safety of the athletes was paramount. Whilst apologetic to today’s host cities and spectators, they felt it was in everyone’s best interests that the stage was stopped immediately. Weather forecasts are expected to improve before tomorrow’s fifth stage.
The race convoy transferred to the city of Geochang this afternoon, in anticipation of resuming stage five as planned tomorrow. Fine conditions and temperatures of 21°C are forecast for Thursday’s 146.8km stage, which ends in Gumi.
Joon Yong Seo (Seoul Cycling Team); 6th place in stage 3, 9th on general classification
“I think half the riders wanted to stop, and half wanted to continue. I wanted to continue; it’s better for me. On a rainy and cold stage, you can get some big gaps in the overall and everything changes in one day. Today was going to be a long stage; it was raining, windy, and a difficult course. I think stage seven will be the next stage that could change everything,
We follow the official’s decision, but I never have seen a decision like this. Sometimes racing is more cold, more hard, more windy; but today it was 15°C, just a little windy, a little rainy, but somebody didn’t want to race. I know before the real start, the roads were very bad; there were holes and construction on the road, but after that I think it was not so dangerous. It would have been better to make the decision before the stage.”
Patrick Shaw (Genesys Wealth Advisers) 23rd in stage 3; 13th on general classification
“I think the majority of the field wanted the stage called off. In some circumstances, like today, you have to make decisions for the safety of the riders. Decisions like this should happen more often. We would probably race in these conditions in Australia; but then, most of the roads are built in a manner that allows water to drain properly.”
Aaron Kemps (Champion System Pro Cycling Team) 15th in stage 3; 25th on general classification
“You could barely see 40m in front of you. There was so much water gushing over the side of the road. The main problem was nobody knew what was happening. I think a couple of guys punctured and then guys in the bunch started waving everybody over to the right hand side of the road to stop.”
Jaan Kirsipuu (Champion System Pro Cycling Team) 105th on general classification
“I wanted to keep riding at least until a decision was made. Even for me it was dangerous to have that much water on the surface. I almost crashed in the neutral zone, because I couldn’t see the road. The main problem I see is (the officials) didn’t properly study the road beforehand.”
John Herety, Team Manager – Rapha Condor-Sharp
“I’m happy with the decision; not because of the weather, but because of the condition of the roads. We did know at the start that there were going to be road works and there was some debate about whether or not the race was going to be neutralised until after that point. It was a mistake on the official’s part not to do that. Those road works have been there for a long time, it’s not like they just arrived this morning.
We spoke with some of the Malaysians that have ridden here before. They know the descent further down the road is normally full of potholes; in these weather conditions they would have been filled with water and it would have been extremely dangerous.
Strategically, it’s a shame the stage has been removed. We had two or three good guys that we hoped could make a decisive split; but it’s the same for everybody. It’s a tough decision for the race, but officials should not be scared to take tough decisions.”
Henk Vogels, Team Manager – Rusvelo
“I’m a bit disappointed. I think it was a hasty decision. By the time we got back to the hotel, the rain and the wind had died down; I think it was the wind that sealed the decision for the officials. I’m trying not to sound like a “classics hardman” or whatever, but the wind wasn’t enough to push riders off the road. It happens all the time in Europe, but you’ve also got cobbles to worry about!
Ed Beamon, Team Manager – Champion System Pro Cycling Team
“We had a chat with officials before the race to say it would be advisable to stop the stage. Intuitively, we knew the stage was still under question in the neutral zone. The riders had stopped before we received official communication about what happened. This is another example of where some individuals in the UCI just don’t get it; we don’t have the basic communications needed to talk to our riders about what’s happening on the road. “
Going into stage five, the classification leaders are:
Individual General Classification | Chan Jae Jang (Terengganu Cycling Team)
Points Classification | Sun Jae Jang (Korean National Team)
Young Rider Classification | Kyoung Ho Park (Seoul Cycling Team)
King of the Mountains Classification | Sungbaek Park (KSPO)
Teams General Classification | Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies)