Africa’s first Professional Continental team was fourth fastest at the intermediate time check, 46” down after navigating through the first hilly part of the course. The deficit was turned around during the second half to cross the line with the best time, just one second ahead of second placed Champion System. Rapha Condor JLT finished third on the day.
“Our strategy from the start was to keep it nice and steady to the first climb, get over that intact and drive hard between the climbs” sports director, Kevin Campbell said. “Then we wanted to keep a nice steady tempo on the second climb and at the top: full-gas until the finish.
“The whole team was riding very well on the climbs. I thought it would be (Dennis van Niekerk and Louis Meintjes) that set the tempo but they rode it very much as a group. After the climb everybody gave it their all; Martin (Wesemann) was driving it really well, Johann (van Zyl) was driving it really well, and Louis was also going superbly on the flat stretches. Every rider contributed. Even Kristian (Sbaragli). He’s no TT specialist but he was driving as hard as the rest. I was very pleased with that.”
Sbaragli retains the blue jersey as the leader of the points classification and remains in the top ten of the general classification.
“When we came into the Tour we did nominate Dennis and Louis as our GC guys because we can’t come into a race in Asia with one GC contender; the racing is just too unpredictable. We chose them as equal GC contenders and the way it’s worked out, Dennis has been the right man, in the right moves at the right time. That’s the way the racing worked out,” Campbell added.
“We’re now thinking Kristian (Sbargli, who started today’s stage 7th on GC at 3’48” behind Yellow Jersey Cheung King Lok) can also be a chance. We were worried that he wouldn’t get over the climb on the third stage but then he went over it and finished in the front group. Now we definitely see how well he is riding. In the team time trial he was one of our strongest guys so we think he has what it takes to get to the finish. If he’s high up on GC after this we will make sure he stays there, if not improves.”
Three stages remain in the Asian race with tomorrow’s stage 6 taking place over 184.7km and features two climbs before a flatter run to the finish. Today’s victory is the seventh of the season for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung who is in its debut season as a Professional Continental team.
Tour of Korea (Korea) – (June 9 – 16 / UCI 2.2): Louis Meintjes (RSA), Johann Van Zyl (RSA), Bradley Potgieter (RSA), Martin Wesemann (RSA), Dennis Van Niekerk (RSA), Songezo Jim (RSA), Kristian Sbaragli (ITA),
Staff: Kevin Campbell (Directeur Sportif), Yvonne Houweling (Soigneur), Russel Lenhoff (Soigneur), Casper Bester (Mechanic).
Photo: Aaron Lee/Tour de Korea