It was an awesome day for the Subway Pro Cycling team today with Paul Odlin pulling on the Blue Jersey of Sprint Ace at the stage finish. The Stage was 148km heading inland from Dangjin and over several climbs. The stage was mainly over back country roads, differing from previous stages which have been predominately open highways. As a result the road surface was pretty horrible and we were continually dodging cracks and potholes. It was also a strong headwind most of the way for added fun.
The stage had one major categorised climb of 4km. Located at the halfway mark. It was really important our entire team got over it to support Oddy in the days sprint prime that came after 112km.
The stage started fast and after a couple of attempts I placed myself in an early breakaway of three riders. The goal was to try and get a head start over the climb, but it was soon pretty obvious we weren’t going to gain a substantial advantage and I retired to the shelter of the peloton.
The climb was hard, however I placed myself on the wheel of the current Sprint Ace leader from the Aisan team knowing he was the biggest threat to Paul and the most important rider to mark. We all made it over the climb safely and although it split on the way up, the bunch reintegrated on the descent. The run into the Sprint Ace prime was very lumpy and was made even more difficult by a breakaway sneaking away 10km out. Grover and I both did some work on the front to bring the break back, before Wes gave Paul a long lead out to ensure he was in the perfect position. The sprint itself was very difficult, uphill and headwind. Paul rode awesomely and took second place behind a French rider on one of the local teams. This was enough to put him in the jersey, the day’s goal complete.
The stage wasn’t without drama however. Although we managed to avoid punctures today there were still a few hairy moments. First Matt received a nasty chop from a local rider and had to hop over a meter high curb complete with a deep gutter, onto the sidewalk to avoid crashing. It was a very impressive piece of bike handling that few would have been able to pull off. The bunch coming down a high speed descent straight into a stretch of rutted, gravel road works was also pretty interesting. I had to take some quick evasive action to avoid a rider who locked up his back wheel and was travelling sideways at 70km/h before crumpling into a heap on the ground.
The finish was chaotic as usual, exacerbated by several twists and turns in the final five kilometres. I got to the front to help Oddy, but lost a heap of speed when a Ukrainian rider put his pedal into my front wheel. Paul still managed to hold good bunch position by himself and got up for a top ten result – the guy is absolutely flying! Ed Clancy from the British team, Rapha Condor Sharp won the stage.
Tomorrow is a nice wee birthday special for me, 138.8km with two big mountains to ascend. One is less than 20km from the finish so will definitely be a big factor in the stage. There is only one sprint prime remaining in the race now. It is on the final day into Seoul so Paul will be proudly wearing the blue jersey of the sprint ace the whole way to the race finish, and hopefully after the race too!
Until next time, thanks for reading.