ROAD magazine September 2013 : Page 37

Tour de Korea By Zach Bell, Photos by Mohkriz Aziz “NO, NO! Bad Luck! BAD LUCK!!” I said in a rm voice as I gently, but physically fought o a white gloved Commissar as he pushed and reached for my numbers pinned on my back. I knew what he was after, but I wasn’t going to let him achieve his intention of ipping #13 right way up and jinxing my whole week. I should have known that it was going to be a peculiar week when Chris, our DS, handed me the number the night before. I am not a superstitious individual, but I do think there is something to respecting the traditions of racing, even if they are based on superstitions of others. e Tour de Korea was certainly a unique racing experience. e race itself still marched to the rhythmic beat of Asian structure that is so prevalent in most of the more developed Asian nations. However, it was a porous creation that let a thin coating of unpredictable events ooze out and coat the race in intriguing moments that were simultaneously fantastic and frightening. e racing itself was always on. No control. Nothing but stronger and stronger guys pushing the race up the road as the group inevitably dwindled each day to those who had the tness, or the guts, to be in that nal selection. is meant no one truly new what was going to happen. e eventual winner nished the race with one teammate to help him defend. It was not uncommon to come barreling down o a mountain to nd a local vehicle mixed in amongst the race groups, or even worse, on its way up the hill in the opposite lane. ese conditions had everyone with their heads up, and a cautious nger on at least one brake lever when approaching blind corners. For me, the race number brought unexpected fortune. e later stages of the race became increasingly more scenic, and as challenging hills kicked up longer and longer, accommodations became more and more ostentatious, and the story line for Champion System included more and more drama. Stage six was the peak of the drama for me personally. It started in PyeongChang, host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics. We started up on the ski mountain in a dense fog that, at times, didn’t allow you to see to the front of the bunch if you were too far back. e race plummeted down a snake of a decent in the wet and fog. As a rider, you lost context of where exactly you where in the group. I knew I was near the front, but how far away I wasn’t too sure. What had slipped away wasn’t discernable. After reaching the valley, the race again kicked up and climbed for ten kilometers. On the climb I turned out my insides to stay a bridgeable distance to the lead group of maybe

Zach De Korea

Zach Bell

"NO, NO! Bad Luck! BAD LUCK!!" I said in a firm voice as I gently, but physically fought o a white gloved Commissar as he pushed and reached for my numbers pinned on my back. I knew what he was after, but I wasn't going to let him achieve his intention of flipping #13 right way up and jinxing my whole week. I should have known that it was going to be a peculiar week when Chris, our DS, handed me the number the night before. I am not a superstitious individual, but I do think there is something to respecting the traditions of racing, even if they are based on superstitions of others.

The Tour de Korea was certainly a unique racing experience. The race itself still marched to the rhythmic beat of Asian structure that is so prevalent in most of the more developed Asian nations. However, it was a porous creation that let a thin coating of unpredictable events ooze out and coat the race in intriguing moments that were simultaneously fantastic and frightening.

The racing itself was always on. No control. Nothing but stronger and stronger guys pushing the race up the road as the group inevitably dwindled each day to those who had the fitness, or the guts, to be in that final selection. This meant no one truly new what was going to happen. The eventual winner -finished the race with one teammate to help him defend. It was not uncommon to come barreling down o ff a mountain to find a local vehicle mixed in amongst the race groups, or even worse, on its way up the hill in the opposite lane. These conditions had everyone with their heads up, and a cautious finger on at least one brake lever when approaching blind corners.

For me, the race number brought unexpected fortune. The later stages of the race became increasingly more scenic, and as challenging hills kicked up longer and longer, accommodations became more and more ostentatious, and the story line for Champion System included more and more drama.

Stage six was the peak of the drama for me personally. It started in PyeongChang, host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics. We started up on the ski mountain in a dense fog that, at times, didn't allow you to see to the front of the bunch if you were too far back. The race plummeted down a snake of a decent in the wet and fog. As a rider, you lost context of where exactly you where in the group. I knew I was near the front, but how far away I wasn't too sure. What had slipped away wasn't discernable. After reaching the valley, the race again kicked up and climbed for ten kilometers. On the climb I turned out my insides to stay a bridgeable distance to the lead group of maybe 15 or 20. After the climb and ten to 15 kilometers of chasing, I joined the leaders just as they began to express their displeasure with the composition of the group by lashing out with continued attacks. As a "bigger boy" I could have been happy just to be there, but I knew these races were being won from the front, so I did all I could on the terrain that suited me to make the inevitable split of the smaller peloton of 30 or so riders. The final selection ended up being one of the key moves of the whole race, with the eventual winner paving his unexpected path to his overall win with his efforts in the break. For the Champion System team and myself, it lead to another UCI stage win and a day in the climber's jersey for Kai.

At the start of the day, the joke from our director was that I needed to go win the stage. After all, it was the longest and potentially most difficult of the race. With the peculiar way the race was unfolding, I guess it should not have come as a surprise when that is what played out.

The Tour de Korea is the perfect example of the ingredients that make road racing so unique. Those elements only seem to be magni fied in the fledgling Asian tours. The same dramas that cycling fans wait three weeks for while watching the big tours unfold daily in these Asian races. Twists of fate, unknown heroes, and epic stories are scripted every day. For young riders it is an excellent venue to learn the value of racing with a tenacity that can only come from not knowing what is around the next bend. For a rider like me, these Asian tours are letting me find the best qualities of bike racing again. They remind me that races are not over until you cross the line. They give you chance to find your best results in the most unexpected scenarios.

Just like in Taiwan, I got to experience a race young enough to be discovering its place. It was not always re fined, but that made the Tour de Korea exciting, and clearly showed the basic ingredients the sport should be looking for at the core of all its events.

Read the full article at http://bluetoad.com/article/Zach+De+Korea/1461942/168407/article.html.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here