Drapac Pro Cycling s sprint gun Wouter Wippert was a decisive winner of today s opening 189.1km stage which finished in Gumi, Gyeongbuk province. The 24 year old Dutchman, making his first appearance at Tour de Korea, sealed his victory ahead of KSPO s Seo Joonyong and Park Sungbaek.
IMAGES: Aaron Lee (Official Tour de Korea race photographer)
It worked perfect today , said a relieved-looking Wippert moments after the stage finish. We planned to let a small break go. We could control it and we chased it down together with ORICA-GreenEDGE and one other team. The last 10km was just that fast with the tail wind so it was a really fast run in and the sprint went perfect for me. There was a little crash, which was not good I was just lucky I could get past it. With 300m to go I felt pretty safe for the win. The boys rode the whole way on top of the bunch so when you finish first it s like a great job for them as well.
Three riders, Xue Chen (Giant Champion System Pro Cycling), Kwon Soonyeong (KSPO) and Kim Okcheol (Seoul Cycling) broke away from the 119-strong field in the first 20km. Genki Yamamoto (Nippo Vini Fantini) and Choe Hyeongmin (Geumsan Insam Cello) bridged to the trio shortly after, surprisingly eliciting little reaction from the peloton. After traffic issues caused a brief stoppage to the race after 46km of racing it resumed again at the 50km mark the breakaway continued to extend its lead; at one point creating a healthy six-minute advantage.
As the day s sole KOM (at 151km) approached, riders from ORICA-GreenEDGE, Drapac and RTS-Santic Racing slowly but steadily started reeling in the lead group. The pressure to maintain their lead on the ascent was already having an effect on the break and the last two holdouts, Yamamoto and Kim, were picked up by a calculating peloton within the final 20 kilometres. A crash within 400 meters of the finish line took race favourite Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE) and other key sprinters out of contention, leaving Wippert slightly fewer rivals to battle with for line honours.
Wippert was circumspect when assessing his chances to retain the yellow leader s jersey all the way through to Seoul. Our goal is to take as many stage wins home as possible. We re not really looking to the GC because (stages) four and five is probably a bit hard for me, so the focus will be on the sprint stages. The teams are really small so it s going to be hard to control an eight-day tour with five people. It s not my goal (to win GC) but every day in yellow is really nice so of course we ll try to get it one more day.
LEADERBOARD Race Leader (Yellow jersey): Wouter Wippert (Drapac Pro Cycling) Points Leader (Sky Blue jersey): Wouter Wippert (Drapac Pro Cycling) King of the Mountains Leader (Polka-Dot jersey): Genki Yamamoto (Nippo Vini Fantini) Best Young Rider (White jersey): Kim Okcheol (Seoul Cycling Team)
Best Team: KSPO
STAGE 1 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE ONE