With the added motivation of a stage win in front of his parents, who had flown over from Australia as a surprise, race leader Caleb Ewan threw everything he had at the line today, beating second-placed Patrick Bevin (Avanti Racing Team) by a bike length.
Ewan, a sprinter whose team came to Korea with ambitions to only win stages, now goes into Sunday s final 65km stage in Seoul with an eight-second buffer over Bevin in the General Classification. Though reluctant all week to voice any ambitions of an overall win, both Ewan and his team will now invest energy into protecting the yellow jersey.
It s pretty obvious now that we will ride to protect the general classification said Sports Director, David McPartland. It hasn t been a goal of ours all week, we have been prioritising things to go for stages. In the final it ll be the same deal, we will set up Caleb again for the win. The only difference tomorrow is that there are intermediate bonus seconds on offer throughout the stage so we will be on the alert for those.
Under the watchful gaze of ORICA-GreenEDGE, four riders Luke Grivell-Mellor (JLT Condor), Jang Kyunggu (Korail Cycling Team), Damien Monier and Kazuo Inoue (both Bridgestone Anchor Cycling) broke off the front of an otherwise contained peloton after the first hour of racing.
Gaining a lead of five minutes as they approached the category three climb just prior to the stage s 145.8km mid-point, Polka Dot jersey-wearer Jang despite starting the day with an unassailable lead in the climber s classification moved ahead of this breakaway companions to secure maximum KOM points.
With his group s lead drastically cut to less than a minute with 30km remaining, Grivell-Mellor led through the intermediate sprint (at 118.1km) before dropping off to be swept up by the rapidly-approaching main field. Against oppressive headwinds, the peloton absorbed the remaining trio inside the last 10km.
Passing through the 3km marker, Ewan s teammate Leigh Howard dug deep, hauling the strung-out bunch over a small climb and onto the descent towards the finishing area at Daejong s World Cup stadium, where a final right-hander 300m from the finish line awaited. Already in excess of 70kph, Howard swung off and OGE s Mitchell Docker and Adam Blythe pulled a perfectly-positioned Ewan towards his fourth Tour de Korea stage win and, perhaps, his first overall yellow jersey.
After hugging his Mum and Dad, Ewan spoke with cautious excitement at the prospect of winning his first stage. Mum messaged me last night and told me she was here. It made it a bit more special winning today knowing that my family are here. Obviously, it would be nice to win the whole tour now that they re here it would make it a bit more special. It s not like I have that much of a buffer where I can just sit up and relax. The team is still riding so strong, they re not showing any weakness, so that s a good sign. I m still feeling good and I m confident going in, but you can t celebrate and relax and say I ve got it’
He s had a great tour this week said an elated Mark Ewan about his son s first Tour de Korea. He came here with expectations of winning stages (but) never really the overall classification. When it got to Wednesday and he was in yellow, we thought we would come over in the hopes he would finish in yellow. It would be his biggest race of the year as far as a win goes.
LEADERBOARD Race Leader (Yellow jersey): Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE) Points Leader (Sky Blue jersey): Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE) King of the Mountains Leader (Polka-Dot jersey): Jang Kyunggu (Korail Cycling Team) Best Young Rider (White jersey): Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE)
Best Team: Avanti Racing Team
Sunday s 65.0km final stage commences from Olympic Park in the heart of Seoul. The first 45km comprises an out and back course, taking the peloton through the famous Gangnam district, across the Han River, then west to the turnaround point at Mapo-daegyo bridge. Riders will then head east, to the northern entry of Olympic-daegyo bridge, where they will cross back over the Han River for four laps (5km each) around Olympic Park. The stage will be streamed live from the official Tour de Korea website from 09:00KST (00:00GMT).
STAGE 7 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE SEVEN