Eric Young claimed an emphatic stage win at the 2013 Tour de Korea today, winning from a two-man sprint against Jung Ji Min (KSPO). The pair launched over the closing moments of the stage from a 16-man breakaway that stayed up the road for most of the trip from Muju to Gumi. Young followed an attack from Jung with 2 kilometers to go, and outpaced his lone challenger over the closing meters. The stage win continues the team’s legacy of success at the Tour de Korea, which saw Ken Hanson and Alex Candelario take a combined three-stage haul in the 2012 edition, with Candelario finishing second overall.
It was Young’s first UCI stage win of the year, and he dedicated the result to his teammates, including Tom Soladay, who was instrumental in delivering victory from inside the day’s chaotic breakaway.
“It felt great to get the win today here in Korea, and it was the result of great teamwork,” said Young. “Over the last 20 kilometers, Soladay did a lot of work bringing back a really dangerous solo attack from Joon Young Seo (KSPO). Even 50km out from the finish line, there are always attacks, especially in Korean racing – it’s always aggressive. The more guys you have up the road, the better. Soladay did a really great job of helping me out. We covered everything we could. He did a lot of work in the climbs, covering some things I couldn’t. I just sat in and rested for the finish. I can’t thank him enough.”
The breakaway formed just 5 kilometers into the 138 kilometer rolling trip from Muju to Gumi, and Young was quick to react, jumping into the 12-man move, which included several general classification threats.
Soladay, riding smart and conscience of his role as “workhorse” in the situation at hand, bridged across to Young with several other riders, reshuffling the move into a 16-rider affair.
“Soladay totally sold out for Young today,” said Performance Manager Eric Wohlberg, directing the team in Korea. “He went up the road when he had to, closing all the gaps for Young. It was a perfect example of teamwork winning a bike race, and we’re very happy with that.”
Riders worked hard from the breakaway, and a sizable gap was established and continued to grow as the day progressed. Seo, launching a dangerous flyer, provided the most serious threat on the stage for his breakaway companions, and the pace was upped accordingly. Seo’s bold solo move lasted until just 3.5 kilometers left in the race.
In an interesting turn of events, the peloton gave no concerted effort to close down the gap, which continued to build through the two categorized climbs of the day. Wohlberg sensed that the opportunity was right for a bunch sprint that favored the two Optum p/b KBS riders.
“The move hovered around 4-5:30 minutes for most of the race, and with the gap so big, the final 30 k was an all-out war,” said Wohlberg. “Soladay was instrumental in keeping the situation intact for us, while Young rested up for what looked like it could be a 16-man sprint.”
Young was alert and prepared for the chaotic finishing kilometers.
“We gradually brought (Seo) back with 3.5km to go but then no team was controlling the race. It was just a series of attacks coming into the final kilometres,” said Young. “Once again, Soladay did an awesome job bringing everything back. Then Jung (KSP) whacked it really hard at 2 k to go, and I went with him.”
The attack from Jung in the final two kilometers was the final “nudge” Young needed to help him know what had to be done to win the race.
“The rest of the break let Jung and I get a little bit of a gap,” said Young. “I looked back, saw that, and knew: ‘this is it.’ We were both going as hard as we could. In the final kilometer I caught him and then hit out again. We went back-and-forth one more time like that: one of us attacks… the other catches. Then with about 400m to go I hit out as hard as I could and he sat up. He couldn’t do it.”
Young’s gap at the finish line was sizable enough to warrant a time gap to Jung on the results sheet.
Two more teams will join the Optum p/b KBS Korea roster in racing endeavors this week, halfway across the world at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The classic Minnesota NRC event sees the team return as defending champions on both the men’s and women’s side, and is a chance for the men’s team to three-peat as GC champs at the race.