Eric Young clinched a second stage victory in his first Tour de Korea on a damp transitional stage from Yeongju to Chungju. His team (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) took control of the peloton in the final 5km, usurping MTN-Qhubeka who dismissed a dangerous three-man breakaway in the run to the finish.
IMAGES: Aaron Lee (Official Tour de Korea race photographer)
Optum’s Ken Hanson and Alex Candelario – both of whom won Tour de Korea stages in 2012 – executed a plan to lead the bunch around a pivotal left hand turn in the final kilometre. The win puts Young into equal second to MTN-Qhubeka’s Kristian Sbaragli in the sprint classification with the American now looking to securing the Sky Blue Jersey in the final stage of the race. “There were a lot of teams trying to set something up,” said Young at the stage finish in Yeongju.
Team Nippo – De Rosa sprinter Alberto Cecchin was second ahead of Australian Jack Beckinsale, riding for his country’s national team. Taiji Nishitani (Asian Racing Team) moved up to join Young (OPM) on 30 points in the sprint classification after finishing fifth on the stage.
Team Hong Kong China’s Cheung King Lok retained the overall lead by virtue of strong demonstration from his team including Chan Yat Wai – still third overall – who sacrificed himself to aid in the defence of the yellow jersey’s position. With GC contenders Sung Baek Park (KSPO), Julián Arredondo (Nippo-De Rosa) and Dennis van Niekerk (MTN) up the road, Hong Kong were left with the responsibility of neutralising what was a 2:30 deficit on the day’s only categorised climb.
The best-placed rider in the breakaway was Kyung Gu Jang (Korean National Team), 3:28 behind Cheung overall, but with three Nippo – De Rosa (Arredondo, Shinichi Fukushima and Kohei Uchima), two Optum (Candelario and Jeremy Durrin) and two MTN-Qhubeka riders (van Niekerk and Johann van Zyl) in the escape, Hong Kong had little choice but to work.
Tomorrow’s team time trial is expected to bring about a major shake-up in the general classification and every team has nominated the 25.5km North of Chungju as a key component in overall success. The Australian Bianchi Lotto Arbitrage squad will be first on the course and, along with three other teams, departs Chungju with just four riders.
Eric Young (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) | 1st in stage 4; 25th on GC at 28’01”
“We had two guys in the early break today. That was good; we could sit back and let the other teams try to pull it back, which they did. One KOM was pretty tough; I barely made it over with the main group but I was able to. Then the whole group was chasing the whole way. There was that last group of riders that we only caught 5km away from the finish. There were a lot of teams trying to set something up.
The run into the finish was full on. Our guys did awesome. We had me, Alex Candelario and Ken Hanson there. Both of them won stages in this race last year so we have a really good sprint squad at this race. I was feeling good today so they had me sprint – but Ken could have. We led it through the last left and corner with one kilometre left in the race – Alex Candelario led us through there, then Hanson took over with about 500m to go. Hanson went with about 400m to go, about halfway up the rise. There was a downhill and I came off his wheel at 200m and that was it. It has a little downhill section so we came into that flying, full-gas. It was pretty straight forward from there, nobody came around.
We do have some guys that are in the money in the GC so we don’t want to lose too much time. We’ll do it (the TTT), we’ll go hard, but it’s not like we’re going to make up too much time.”
Eric Wohlberg | Team Manager, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
“That was our whole plan. It wasn’t like we really designated those two guys (Candelario and Durrin) in the break but we have three really handy sprinters and we have three really solid, worker guys. We’re just hoping to get the combination of a good, solid, worker guy and one of our fast guys in any kind of move. We’ll take our chances from there.
The gap rose up to 2:30 and I think the Hong Kong team was under pressure for sure. It’s funny; on the KOM one of the Nippo guys hit it pretty hard. He detonated the breakaway which really hurt the rhythm. It’s hard to say if the breakaway wouldn’t have been caught if not for that. It came back together again and Eric made huge after the feed zone; that hill kind of caught us off guard. He was in bad position, so he had to chase really hard to get back on after that. He wasn’t too sure how much that was going to sap his legs. It turned out that he recovered from that effort. Towards the end the guys worked really well. We knew about the 90-degree left hand turn coming in to the finish line so we wanted to hit the front with about 1.5km to go to have control of that corner. The guys executed that part of the plan perfectly. They hit it out from there.
Ken Hanson and Alex Candelario are handy guys so we’ve got three cards to play for the sprints. Unfortunately for the really tough climbing days, we didn’t really bring a climber here. Alex gets up a hill pretty well. Both him and Ken survived that Cat 2 climb yesterday really well. To say that we are really vying for the GC would not be 100% honesty. We’re looking for more stage wins; we’ve got the guys to do it.
The guys are feeling really good. We want to have a go at the TTT but it’s not going to be our focus. If we had a guy up there in the GC we would really have to go full gas for it. We’re going to ride a solid TT and are looking forward to the next couple of stages to try for some more chances.”
Cheung King Lok (Hong Kong China Team) | 64th in stage 4; 1st on GC
“Today, after the finish of this stage, I feel my team have done very well. I have confidence to hang on to the yellow jersey to the end. (The team) used a lot of power but I was (motivated) by them because they rode so well. (Chan Yat Wai) tried his best to follow the peloton. He is very good. I think there is enough energy left for tomorrow (team time trial). If we lose some time it’s okay, I think we will lose not much.”
Johann van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) | 67th in stage 4; 36th on GC at 8’35”
“The second climb of the TTT is really steep, up to 18 percent, and with a fast downhill. After the two climbs you still have a long distance to the finish line, which is flat. You have to play your cards carefully. You can’t lose half the riders on the climbs because you will be slower at the end.”
CLASSIFICATION LEADERS AFTER STAGE 4
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 4 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR