This past week I flew out to South Korea for the Changwon Amateur World Championship. I’m not sure this particular World Championship was any sort of sanctioned world’s (they couldn’t provide insurance and no licenses were required), but they paid my way out there and the race had $13,500 of prize money, so it certainly had enough money for an Amateur World Championship.
I took off work for a few days and flew out Wednesday morning. After traveling most of the day I got into Korea on Thursday afternoon. I meet up with Derek and stayed at his place in Yangji. We went for a short ride around his home town during the day on Friday before having a duck dinner at a place that was supposedly famous for it’s duck:
Yeah wood floors and a greenhouse covered in a tarp is a fancy restaurant in Korea (reservation only).
We took Derek’s Musso SUV Saturday morning in a cross country trip down to Changwon. Since Korea is a little smaller than Indiana, a cross country trip entails only 4 hours of driving.
After a few days in a totally foreign country we arrived in Changwon to a very familiar scene. I even had to pay 30,000 Won (~$30) to register.
The only difference was no one was speaking English.
Derek signing in at the most legit race sign in I’ve ever done.
It was raining all day going into the race and stayed wet through the Korean Criterium Championship that preceded our race. There were a few other Americans flown out for the race besides myself. As we watched numerous crashes on the 2.5 km course with only 2 corners we were all worrying a bit about having to fly home oozing with road rash.
Thankfully the rain cleared just before our own race started. The field was about 100 guys that were mostly Koreans. There was a handful of Americans, Europeans, and a team from Japan. A large contingent were also foreigners living in Korea. The race start had much more theatrics than the usual American race, a lot of yelling and fireworks going off at the start. The race began with 2 neutral laps before the racing began in earnest.
The race contained 4 mid race primes every 5 laps for $500 each. I figured if I got one I would break even in terms of paying for food and other incidentals for the trip. When we hit four laps in things were together I decided to go for it. Coming out of the last corner there was a good 600 meters to the finish, making it super easy to jump too early. I followed a guy with legs the size of tree trunks (later learned he was training to become a pro Keirin racer). We got a good gap, but I was patient and able to sprint around him for the second prime. As the race rolled on it became pretty clear nothing was really going to get away. With all of the $13k prize money going to the top 3 there was a lot of incentive to keep things together.
Things played out pretty much as I thought, no one getting a bigger gap than a few seconds. The second prime was taken by a guy solo off the front. By lap 14 things were getting a little strung out, I followed some attacks going into the prime lap. When I heard the bell things were broken up enough to provide the perfect opportunity to attack. I got away solo to take the third prime. After this one I sat up to wait for the field.
The race laps counted down. At the last prime I tried to lead Derek out but he had spent the entire previous lap off the front trying to break away.
The last five laps things were getting nervous. I committed myself to staying at the front despite having to use a little extra energy. I even chased down a leadout that had turned into a breakaway going into the bell lap.
Coming into the last corner I was sitting on the front just riding tempo, knowing that getting boxed in by a swarm would be the end of my race. I waited until a few riders from the Storck group attacked on the inside going into the last corner. I jumped across the road into 3rd wheel. Fortunately the Korean’s aren’t quite as cut-throat when it comes to wheel stealing as Americans. I went through the last corner 3rd wheel.
Chuck Hutchenson an American rider from the Armed Forces team was second wheel and attacked pretty much right out of the corner. I immediately jumped on his wheel. After a few seconds I glanced back…we had a HUGE gap. He motioned me to pull through, knowing it would be tough for the field to catch us I pulled through pretty easy baiting him to open up the sprint first, he did. I got up onto his wheel and from that point on the slingshot was engaged, and you don’t mess with the slingshot:
On Sunday we spent the day touring around some coastal cities near Changwon before heading back up to Seoul.
My flight Monday was in the afternoon so I immediately started my offseason by going for a trail run in the loop behind Derek’s village that went through a Buddhist Temple and up to the top of a mountain.