Entering its fifth year, the Tour de Korea, South Korea’s top road bicycle competition, will keep growing into a premier race in Asia, a senior organizer of the event said Tuesday.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Sung Ki-hong, head of sports industry at the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation, said the total purse for the Tour de Korea will increase next year and support from fans and local governments will be critical to the competition’s future.
“This year’s event will be held together with a national bicycle festival,” Sung said. “And results here will impact racers’ qualification for the London Olympics (next year). This year’s race promises to be more exciting than ever.”
The Tour de Korea, which started out in 2007, will kick off in Gumi, about 260 kilometers southeast of Seoul, this Friday. It will finish in Seoul on April 24, and the route will pass through southern and eastern towns such as Geochang, Gunsan, Dangjin, Yangyang and Chuncheon.
About 200 foreign and Korean racers registered with International Cycling Union or Korea Cycling Federation will enter the nine-stage race, covering almost 1,400 kilometers.
Another group of 200 amateur cyclists will also participate.
Sung said the second stage, covering 224.7 kilometers from Geochang to Gangjin in southern part of the country, will be the longest stage and predicted it will also be the toughest. He said the mountainous course from Taebaek to Yangyang in Stage 7 will also be a challenge for riders.
“This year, we’ve added sprint elements to some stages with additional finish lines, and riders can win points to qualify for the London Olympics next year,” Sung said. “They will put on thrilling performances.”
The Tour de Korea was initiated as South Korea’s answer to the Tour de France, the world-renowned road race competition.