Orica-AIS signs Asian track champion Sungeun Gu

Orica-AIS signs Korean national champion Sungeun Gu, the first-ever female Korean professional cyclist to join the European ranks

Orica-AIS, the women’s arm of the Orica-GreenEdge WorldTour team, has signed Korea’s first-ever female professional, the team announced Thursday.

Sungeun Gu is a former track rider — a background she shares with teammates Judith Arndt and Melissa Hoskins, as well as male counterparts Matt Goss and Leigh Howard — who notched top results in the velodrome before her switch to the road. Gu, an Olympian in 2008 for South Korea, has silver medals to her name in the points and scratch races at the track junior world championships, as well as a gold medal in the points race at the 2005 Asian track championships.

The 5-foot-5-inch Gu followed a similar path to the road as Eritrean Orica men’s counterpart Daniel Teklehaimanot, training at the UCI’s World Cycling Center in Aigle, Switzerland, prior to her Olympic debut in Beijing.

“We’re really pleased to be able to sign Gu, and we’re proud to have the first Korean pro on our team,” Orica general manager Shayne Bannan said of his new signing. “Cycling is rapidly becoming a global sport, and we see our team as an active part of that development. Having Gu on that team is another big leap forward in that direction for us.”

The Korean national champion’s 2012 campaign included top-10 results at the Tour of Thailand and a podium at the Asian road championships. Her move to the European peloton, however, will be a step up for the 28-year-old.

“Gu will take an important step in her career coming to a European-based team with a full, international race schedule,” Bannan said. “We believe she has the talent and personality to make it.”