photo credits @ Tour de Korea/Twitter
excerpts from Tour de Korea
Having won the opening stage of this year’s Tour de Korea, the superior climbing form of Wouter Wippert’s sprint rivals in later stages meant he wasn’t fresh enough when it mattered. Today however, the Drapac sprinter benefited from a good night’s rest and a perfect lead-out from teammate Graeme Brown.
I had three really hard days” explained Wippert after the stage. “I didn’t sleep at all (but) last night I fell asleep at 8:30pm until this morning at 8:30am, so I had a massive night. I woke up and felt really good today and my legs didn’t hurt at all. I said to the guys ‘we have to commit today full gas in the last 30km’ with the tailwind and crosswind and the boys did a terrific job. I had actually a perfect run-in.
I was sitting on Brownie with 1km to go. He turned around and said ‘fucking follow my wheel and you will win today’. I didn’t say anything – I just followed him. He moved up more and, with 500m (remaining), he started. He chased Adam Blythe down and he started yelling ‘go, go, go, go’. I knew I had a 55T on, so with a tailwind, it’s a small advantage. From the moment I started, I felt pretty safe.”
With a hard-fought fifth place today, overall race leader Caleb Ewan (ORICA-GreenEDGE) retained his yellow jersey with a 4” lead over Patrick Bevin, with whom he is equal in the points classification.
With just a (relatively) small category three KOM climb in the first 25km of today’s 193.7km stage, the day was expected to be largely controlled by the three sprint-heavy teams – ORICA-GreenEDGE, Drapac Pro Cycling and Avanti Racing.
The attacks began as the flag dropped. After a few failed attempts, the peloton seemed to be happy to let a break go 20km into the stage, with Rich Handley (JLT Condor), Amir Zargari (Pishgaman Giant) and Hyosuk Gong (KSPO) launching off the front at the foot of the KOM. The Iranian secured maximum KOM points, followed by Handley and Gong; with the latter still retaining third on the overall KOM classification.
With the mercury and winds rising, the ORICA-led peloton started pulling back on the tiring leaders post the mid-way point. Gong, having nothing to gain from clinging on, fell away, leaving only the remaining two to stave off the field. Their lead, at one time as high as seven minutes, was reduced to a little over one minute as the riders approached the intermediate sprint (142.8km). Handley led Zargari through, whilst ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Adam Blythe – at the head of the chasing peloton – took third. With 50km to the finish, only one kilometer of road separated the leaders from the fast-approaching OGE-powered peloton.
As the race entered the final 30km, the course transitioned to a 25km straightaway with sea on either sides, aptly called the “Sea Wall”. Heavy winds enabled the peloton to catch the race leaders 20km from the finish. At 60kph, the race became animated and scrappy. Following a failed attack by Kohei Uchima (Bridgestone Anchor) and Hossein Askari (Pishgaman Giant Team) the last 5km was a drag race between the sprint engines of the three top teams. Efficiently lead out by two-time Olympic gold medalist Brown, Wippert soared ahead to comfortably claim line honors. Shiki Kuroeda (Nippo – Vini Fantini) and Patrick Bevin (Avanti Racing Team) claimed second and third places, respectively.
“No one helped us today” explained a disappointed Ewan, adding that his own positioning wasn’t nearly good enough to add to his three stage wins so far. “It was mostly just Jens (Mouris) and Heppie (Michael Hepburn) on front all day. It was good that there was only a two-man breakaway today, so it was a bit easier to control. A few teams tried to do something on the bridge but it wasn’t really windy enough. In the final, it was Adam (Blythe), Mitch (Docker) and I. When the attacks started to happen with 3km to go, we kind of lost each other a bit. I stayed back with Mitch but we were too far back in the last 500 meters and, with the tailwind, I couldn’t really make up enough ground.”
Using the recent climbing form of the GC contenders as a guide, tomorrow’s 145.8km queen stage from Gunsan to Daejeon – which features a category three climb (2.5km, 6.3% average gradient) mid-way through the race – should not present too much breakaway hazard. The last point-to-point road race stage of #TDK2015 is widely expected to finish with a bunch kick.
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
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