Three Stage Wins, Victory in Team Classification Cap Off Successful Week In South Korea
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies finished strong Sunday at the eighth and final stage of the Tour de Korea (UCI 2.2), delivering Ken Hanson to his second stage win and Alex Candelario to second place overall after 8 days and 880 kilometers of racing. It was the team’s third stage win of the week, and their collective efforts led Optum p/b KBS to the team classification crown.
Candelario, rolling into the final day of racing just three seconds away from reclaiming the yellow jersey he donned after his stage two win, finished seventh on the stage, narrowly missing the time bonus needed to place him on the overall podium’s top step. Candelario finished second overall when all was said and done, just three seconds behind race winner Sung Baek Park (KSPO).
“It’s great to cap things off with another stage win, and the team rode a fantastic race here in Korea,” said Performance Director Jonas Carney. “Of course we wanted to bring home the overall for Cando, but we had a solid 8 days here. Any time the guys are able to compete in the aggressive, unpredictable races we see here in Asia, it makes our program that much stronger, and it’s great for building fitness for a tough race like the Amgen Tour of California in two weeks.”
Carney’s plan for the team on the final day, which changed somewhat after the seventh stage was cancelled due to severe rain and wind conditions, was a relatively simple one – deliver Candelario to the finish line in a bid to score the time bonus necessary to reclaim the yellow jersey. Stage eight’s short 48.6 kilometer course, running through the outskirts of Seoul, was unremarkable, offering little chance for aggressive tactics or elevation change to shake up the race. It was inevitable things would be decided by a field sprint and the accompanying time bonuses.
“We had planned to really mix things up in stage seven – it was a more selective race with some bigger hills, and we wanted to really break things open, but unfortunately the weather had different plans, and we had to save everything for the final sprint today,” said Carney. “It couldn’t have been any closer – if Cando could finish top three and beat Max Richeze of Team Nippo, who was in third overall, it was almost certain he would retake yellow. He was right there battling for it, but unfortunately we came up a bit short.”
The race went to plan, but the final kilometers turned chaotic with team’s scrambling for the final chance at a podium. After a series of fast, technical downhill turns, Chan Jae Jang (Terengganu Cycling Team) jumped away with 1500 meters to go and built a small gap on the charging peloton. Hanson, watching Jang closely from a few dozen meters back, took things into his own hands on the final straightaway, leading out the sprint and thundering past Jang at the line for his second stage win.
The team returns to American soil to compete in both the SRAM Tour of the Gila and the Amgen Tour of California in the coming weeks, two of America’s largest and most competitive events.