Former US National Crit Champion Eric Young (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) today banked another Tour de Korea stage win for his Optum team, continuing the legacy of the US squad’s great success at the 2012 edition, from which Ken Hanson and Alex Candelario took a combined three-stage haul. Hong Kong’s Cheung King Lok meanwhile sailed into yellow.
IMAGES: Aaron Lee (Official Tour de Korea race photographer)
Young dedicated his best result of 2013 to his teammate after the breakaway survived for the second successive day in the Tour de Korea. The Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies (OPM) rider took the second stage from Muju to Gumi after the lone escapee from the lead group, KSPO’s Joon Young Seo, was caught inside the final 5km. Flying largely under the radar, Hong Kong China National Team’s Cheung King Lok finished fourth on the stage, claiming the yellow, white (BYR) and sky blue (Sprint) Jerseys in a scenario where each of the classifications found itself with a second leader in as many days.
In a stage of aggressive riding exemplified by Seo’s searing – if ultimately doomed – attack, and an upended general classification, Tom Soladay’s (OPM) presence in the breakaway proved invaluable for the eventual winner. OPM Director Sportif, Eric Wohlberg, summed up his team’s performance. “Tom (Soladay) totally sold out for him,” said Wohlberg, a dual Commonwealth Games medallist for Canada. “He went up the road when he had to… closed all the gaps for him. That was a perfect example of teamwork. We’re very happy.”
Young collected a win in the 2012 Tour of Gila while riding for Bissel Pro Cycling but the nature of his first of 2013, a collaboration between teammates, lends it special significance. His final margin was large enough to warrant a time gap to Jung (KSP) in the results sheet.
A reduced peloton of 118 starters left the ski resort of Muju after 6 riders abandoned and 9 finished outside the time cut on Stage 1. A casualty came inside the 4.3km Stage 2 Neutral Zone when Kazakhstan’s Kirill Mordvintsev crashed on the first of many technical descents. The race continued downhill for 23km and after one false start, six riders formed a coalition at the 15km mark. Another 10 gave chase, then five more followed to form a lead group of 21 on the edge of the first climb.
Only the final 1.9 kilometres of the first ascent were classified Cat 4 but that was just the tip of a 30km iceberg. Nine teams had a pair of riders in the breakaway which included then Best Young Rider Chan Yat Wai (HKG). Martin Wesemann (MTN) rolled the dice again, monitoring the move along with Bradley Potgieter on behalf of Sbaragli’s yellow jersey.
The Korean National Team (KOR), KSPO and Rapha Condor JLT shared the pacemaking, extending the breakaway’s lead to as much as 2:20 before the looming KOM brought it down to 1:35. Hyeong Min Choe (Geumsan Insam Cello) allowed Asian Racing Team to set the tempo on the climb then kicked for the line, taking 4 points ahead of Jiung Jang (KOR) and a fast-finishing Feng Chun Kai (Champion System Pro Cycling Team).
Another breathtaking descent followed. The breakaway regrouped and extended its lead to 3:05, enjoying the speed advantage over a cautious and crowded main field. Back in the peloton, Team Novo Nordisk’s Stephen Clancy crashed; the Irishman flirting with the broomwagon before rejoining. The Cat 3 climb started immediately and the 5.4km gradient caused Potgieter (MTN) and Hoeberg (Christina Watches-Onfone) to lose contact along with Ho Sung Cho (Seoul Cycling Team). This time it was Feng who bagged the full compliment of points and the Polka Dot Jersey.
With the day’s climbing over Jordan Kerby (CWO) felt the time was right to try his luck. Kohei Uchima (PPO) responded and the pair worked well together; Kerby offering a generous draft to the rider from Japan. After 95km the duo were caught. Jung (KSP) accelerated at the 100km mark, taking Nishitani (PPO) with him but it was Seo (KSP) who made the move that stuck.
The break chased with gusto, increasing their lead on the strangely dormant peloton to five minutes. Seo soloed through the intermediate sprint point with a 30 second advantage, extending it to 45 at 20km. He struggled to hold his margin on the undulating road to Gumi. Wesemann flatted, and would be given a 20 second penalty when his team car drafted him back to the break; a small price to pay to protect his third position in the general classification. Seo held on for another 10km before Soladay’s sacrifice finally closed the gap.
Amidst the drama of the stage finish, the overall classification was momentarily put to one side. When the peloton finally arrived in Gumi, Cheung King Lok (HKG) had amassed a 4:01 advantage over Sbaragli. He leads his compatriot Chan Yat Wai in the yellow jersey competition by 9 seconds and Wesemann by 45.
Eric Young (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) | 1st in stage 2; 72nd on GC at 19’59″
“It’s always good to have numbers in a breakaway. In the last 20-10km (Soladay) did a lot of work bringing back Seo. Even 50km out from the finish line there are always attacks, especially in Korean racing. It’s always aggressive. The more guys you have the better. Tom (Soladay) did a really great job of helping me out. We covered everything we could. He did a lot of work in the climbs, covering some things I couldn’t. I just sat in and rested for the finish. I can’t thank him enough.
We gradually brought (Seo) back with 3.5km to go but then no team was controlling it. It was just a series of attacks coming into the final kilometres. Once again, Soladay did an awesome job bringing that back. Then Jung (KSP) whacked it really hard with a big attack at 2km to go and I went with him.
The rest of the break let us get a little bit of a gap. I looked back, saw that, and knew: ‘this is it.’ We were both going as hard as we could. In the final kilometre I caught him and then hit out again. We went back-and-forth one more time like that: one of us attacks… the other catches. Then with about 400m to go I hit out as hard as I could and he sat up. He couldn’t do it.”
Feng Chun Kai (Champion System Pro Cycling Team) | 6th in stage 2; 9th on GC at 03’17″
“On the first climb I tried for first position too but the shorter climbs are usually better for me. Long climbs, for me, are not as good. But I still try. The climbs weren’t too hard today. [Team Manager Chris Wherry described Feng as a “fighter” who would hang onto it for dear life.] I will keep this (KOM Jersey) as long as I can. On longer climbs I can follow the lighter riders and then beat them in the sprint. I’m more powerful than them.”
Cheung King Lok (Hong Kong China Team) | 4th in stage 2; 1st on GC
“At the start of today I didn’t think I could wear the yellow jersey because the other teams are so strong. At first I wanted to try to take the yellow jersey on the uphill summit day (stage 3). I didn’t think I could do it today. I thought MTN-Qhubeka and Nippo-De Rosa would control the race but because MTN had Wesemann in the lead group they didn’t. Neither did Nippo-De Rosa. I think I am mostly lucky to take the yellow jersey. I was fine on the climbs. But Stage 6 and Stage 7 will be hard days to keep the yellow jersey. We will try to keep it as long as we can. I feel good for the week ahead.”
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE 2
Individual General Classification (Yellow jersey): Cheung King Lok (Team Hong Kong China)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): Cheung King Lok (Team Hong Kong China)
Young Rider Classification (White jersey): Cheung King Lok (Team Hong Kong China)
King of the Mountains Classification (Polka-Dot jersey): Feng Chun Kai (Champion System Pro Cycling)
Teams General Classification: Team Hong Kong China
STAGE 2 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE TWO