If one were to believe National Geographic, the top ten sporting events in the world are as follows:
- The 24 Hours of La Mans
- The Olympic Games
- The World Cup
- The Super Bowl (American Football)
- The National Basketball Finals (USA)
- The Masters (Golf, USA)
- Polo at Palermo, Argentina
- The World Series (Baseball, USA)
- The Grand National (Horse Racing, England)
It’s an interesting list, and while I agree with many on the list, there are a number I think that are absent. One of these is the Tour de Korea.
The Tour de Korea is the largest cycling race in East Asia. This year over 600 individuals from Korea, Europe, and New Zealand are competing in the more than 1000km event. Beginning this past Sunday (April 22) and taking place for one week, the Tour de Korea concludes in Hanam on Sunday, April 29, 2012.
The Tour de Korea is a grueling eight-stage race that begins in Incheon with a sprint to Seoul. From there, riders make their way down south to Yeosu before turning around to come back north and finish.
Two classes of riders are participating in this year’s event. The Elite cyclists are those registered with the International Cycling Union. Others are semi-professionals and enthusiasts wanting to try their luck at this race. Alexander Van Leuven (Belgium) thinks that this is one of the best races he’s participated in. “I find the climbing stages the most difficult, but that may be because I’m not a climber,” he says. Van Leuven was in high spirits for this third Tour de Korea, despite the opening day having anything but good weather. It was a sentiment shared by Korean cyclist, Sang-woo. He has spent the past three years training for what will be his first “TdK.” When asked to sum up the experience in one word, he answered, “Excitement.”
On hand for the start of the race was Nam-nyeong, one of Korea’s most famous cyclists. Even with his age topping out over most of the field, he currently holds the record for biking from Seoul to Busan. “I think the route of the race is very good. You get to ride through mountains and forests. I think this is the best way to see Korea,” Nam-yeong said. He’s right. The route takes the cyclists to virtually every corner of Korea, over its mountains, through its forests, and enabling nearly every soul the opportunity to see these wheeled ambassadors traverse Korea’s soil.
The Tour de Korea (in its current iteration) began in 2001 and achieved notoriety when Lance Armstrong competed during the 2007 race. Unlike the Tour de France, the Tour de Korea is a point-to-point race with no stages set aside for time trials. The first and last stages this year are sprint stages with distances a third of the others.
Despite the rain and chilly conditions on race day, walking through the team areas, everyone could feel a sense of excitement building. Perhaps that was because leading the pack of the Special Group was none other than Korean President Lee Myung-bak. The Korean President arrived in a stylish black and orange uniform that matched his specialized mountain bike, then after a few words with Pat McQuaid (Commissioner of the International Cycling Union), he sped off.
For up to date race information, follow the Tour de Korea.