Emerson Oronte Tour of Korea diary: Wide awake in Korea

A sleepless night and aggressive, wet racing greet Jelly Belly-Kenda at the Tour of Korea

It’s 5:00 a.m. the morning of stage 1 and I’m wide awake.

Looking out at the city of Incheon from our 10th-floor hotel room, I scan the sky for signs of rain. Other than misting a bit, there doesn’t seem to be major precipitation, for now. The same couldn’t be said for our ride yesterday — a 90-minute spin through the city streets in on-and-off showers. The ride itself wasn’t actually that bad until we got lost near the end. Needless to say, it’s hard to figure out where you are going when every road sign is completely illegible. Eventually though, we found our way back. Crisis averted.

Shortly after parking our team van in the starting area, the light mist, which had persisted throughout the morning, intensifies to the point of becoming a steady rain. Immediately, I reach into my rain bag and pull out the new, heavy duty Pactimo rain jacket our director gave us yesterday and toss it in pile of clothes I intend to wear in the race.

All morning, members of the team have discussed the question of what should be worn during the race. At one point, I’m pretty sure Nic Hamilton said he was going to just wear shorts, a jersey and arm warmers. Now that the rain and the wind have picked up substantially, though, the Canadian opts for the same jacket I have.

Ultimately, while the final wardrobe comes down to the preference of the rider, the general goal when racing in these conditions is to stay warm and dry. While overdressing can often bring about overheating, one always has the option to unzip or take off layers. Once you get cold though, it’s hard turning back. By the time we start, the rain has switched back into a steady mist, but, despite our sudden change of fortunes, the damage has already been done. With the route now coated in a layer of water, the roads become something of an ice rink — especially the parts that are painted. Add to this 120 competitive cyclists riding in excess of 30 mph and you have yourself a recipe for one heck of a good time — sort of.

As a whole, the racing at the Tour of Korea can be summed up in one word: aggressive. It seems as though everyone and their grandmother starts these races thinking they’re going to win from the break. At every opportunity someone is attacking off the front and after that person establishes a 50-meter gap, the whole field will react and chase them down. After catching the escapee and coasting for two seconds, the process is repeated. Under these conditions, the whole stage — which was only 52km — went by in a blur. The only vivid memories I have of the day include seeing the “25km TO GO” sign, chasing a break back with 5km to go, and dodging my teammate Alex as he slid across the pavement at 750 meters to go.

After crossing the line I quickly come across my teammates Ricardo Van Der Velde and Brad Huff who tell me that Brad finished second on the day. Excited by the news, we all exchange high-fives and hugs before seeking shelter from the cold in the team bus.

Following lunch at the race finish and a two hour transfer (which felt like an eternity) to the start of stage 2, I now find myself sitting on the couch of our hotel room watching “Wolverine” with Brad. Despite the fact that he gives away each and every plot twist, the movie still manages to retain some entertainment value.

Overall, the team is happy to start this race off on a good note. Yes, we are still looking to put a guy one step higher on the podium, but it’s important to recognize the good moments when you can. With Tuesday’s stage being a 200km trek from Buyeo to Gwangju, I should probably be heading off to bed soon.

Thanks for reading and check back later,

— E