Across the Nation

Written by on April 27, 2012 in Special Report

If one were to believe National Geographic, the top ten sporting events in the world are as follows:

  1. The 24 Hours of La Mans
  2. The Olympic Games
  3. The World Cup
  4. The Super Bowl (American Football)
  5. The National Basketball Finals (USA)
  6. The Masters (Golf, USA)
  7. Polo at Palermo, Argentina
  8. Wimbeldon
  9. The World Series (Baseball, USA)
  10. 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.

 

QiRanger - KOCIS - The Korea Blog - 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.

 

QiRanger - KOCIS - The Korea Blog - Tour de Korea

 

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.

 

QiRanger - KOCIS - The Korea Blog - Tour de Korea

 

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.”

 

QiRanger - KOCIS - The Korea Blog - Tour de Korea

 

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.

 

QiRanger - KOCIS - The Korea Blog - Tour de Korea

 

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.

 

QiRanger - KOCIS - The Korea Blog - Tour de Korea

 

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.


While I do not race for long distances, I have participated in a number of 10km foot races and the one thing that is always uplifting, is seeing supporters along the route. If you’re in Korea and are able to watch the cyclists cruise by, they will appreciate your cheers and it will create an everlasting memory in your mind. Perhaps, one day, you will catch the cycling bug and find yourself competing in a future Tour de Korea.

For up to date race information, follow the Tour de Korea.

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About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site QiRanger.com.