South Africa’s Team MTN-Qhubeka charged home to take first place in today’s 25.5km Team Time Trial, overcoming a 46″ deficit incurred at the intermediate time check (after 10.6km) to eventual second-place-getter Champion System Pro Cyling Team. Rapha Condor JLT finished strongly to take third.
IMAGES: Aaron Lee (Official Tour de Korea race photographer)
“Our strategy from the start was to keep it nice and steady to the first climb, get over that intact and drive hard between the climbs” explained MTN-Qhubeka DS Kevin Campbell after his team’s triumphant finish. Then we wanted to keep a nice steady tempo on the second climb and at the top: full-gas until the finish.
The whole team was riding very well on the climbs. I thought it would be (Dennis van Niekerk and Louis Meintjes) that set the tempo but they rode it very much as a group. After the climb everybody gave it their all; Martin (Wesemann) was driving it really well, Johann (van Zyl) was driving it really well, and Louis was also going superbly on the flat stretches. Every rider contributed. Even Kristian (Sbaragli). He’s no TT specialist but he was driving as hard as the rest. I was very pleased with that.
We maybe went a bit too conservatively, particular on the first climb – I can say that in hindsight. Our strategy was to go up the climbs conservatively so that we could give it full-gas coming into the finish. I drove the course last night, I came out here and checked out the course, I saw that the team that goes the quickest from the top of the climb to the finish is going to win the race.
When we came into the Tour we did nominate Dennis and Louis as our GC guys because we can’t come into a race in Asia with one GC contender; the racing is just too unpredictable. We chose them as equal GC contenders and the way it’s worked out, Dennis has been the right man, in the right moves at the right time. That’s the way the racing worked out.
We’re now thinking Kristian (Sbargli, who started today’s stage 7th on GC at 3’48” behind Yellow Jersey Cheung King Lok) can also be a chance. We were worried that he wouldn’t get over the climb on the third stage but then he went over it and finished in the front group. Now we definitely see how well he is riding. In the team time trial he was one of our strongest guys so we think he has what it takes to get to the finish. If he’s high up on GC after this we will make sure he stays there, if not improves.”
Cheung King Lok, a gifted time trial rider, was not able to urge his team to compete at the same level.
“I feel today my team had one or two riders who were tired” said Cheung, whose Hong Kong China Team lost almost a minute to MTN-Qhubeka. “So in the first two climbs they dropped out. We tried to keep five riders in the team going on. After the descent of the last hill we fought hard for the last 10-11km. We were only 10 seconds slower than the Aisan Racing Team. I think we’re still in a good position after today. My feeling is good. My legs still have power. They’re excellent.”
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE 5
Individual General Classification (Yellow jersey): Cheung King Lok (Team Hong Kong China)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka)
Young Rider Classification (White jersey): Cheung King Lok (Team Hong Kong China)
King of the Mountains Classification (Polka-Dot jersey): Hyeong Min Choe (Geumsan Insam Cello)
Teams General Classification: Aisan Racing Team
STAGE 5 RESULTS (From today’s Live Results board)
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE