Gumi, Korea - Aaron Kemps of the Champion System Pro Cycling Team sprinted to a third place finish Thursday at the Tour de Korea while teammate Jaan Kirsipuu survived a collision with a race motorcycle before Stage 5 even got underway.
Kemps scored his best result of the season when he finished behind race winner Alexander Serebryakov (Team Type 1-Sanofi) and Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (Team Nippo) in the 146.8-kilometer race that ended in a bunch sprint. The Australian's previous best finish occurred Sunday when he was fourth on the eight-day race's opening stage.
"Aaron had a good run at the line but it was a really tight finish and he got boxed in against the fencing and couldn't pop out to open his sprint," Champion System Pro Cycling Team General Manager Ed Beamon. "He didn't get much help, because Jaan was just too banged up to have the power for the finish."
Kirsipuu was involved in the first of three crashes on the day that were caused by race motorcycles. The former Estonian national champion was struck from behind while the race was still in the neutral zone.
"A moto driver on a Harley Davidson tried to pass the field at high speed and rammed directly into the back of him," Beamon said. "I'm sure any other rider would have been seriously injured but Jaan is a bull."
The race was momentarily stopped while Kirsipuu received a replacement Fuji. About 25 kilometers later, two motos collided, but no riders were involved, Beamon said. The third incident forced another stoppage of the race after a photographer's motorcycle hit one of the lead riders with 30 km to go.
"Unfortunately, the motos here have been a serious problem all week," Beamon said. "Many of them aren't very experienced and don't understand the movement of the peloton or the serious nature of rider safety."
Beamon said even though the Asian-based pro continental team does not have a rider high on the general classification, there is hope for a stage win in the remaining three stages. Chan Jae Jang (Terengganu Cycling Team) remains the overall leader after pulling on the yellow jersey after Stage 3.
"Unfortunately, we could not bring a strong GC team here because of our competing schedule, so we focused instead on bringing a team built around Aaron and Jaan," Beamon said. "I think Stage 7 will be an important GC day and we may not have the team to stay in contention. But I believe Aaron still has a shot on Stage 6. Both he and Jaan should also be a factor on the last stage if Jaan can recover from his moto crash."
Photos by Aaron Lee, Impressions Studio