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Conor Dunne Tour de Korea blog: Pre race

Conor Dunne
6 Jun 2016

We've got the inside line on the Tour de Korea with a guest blog from JLT-Condor's Conor Dunne. Post number one: Pre race.

Since their first appearance at the race in 2011, the various guises of what's now called the JLT-Condor team have enjoyed a lot of success at the Tour de Korea, including Michael Cuming and Hugh Carthy winning the overall classification in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

It's no surprise, then, to see them heading to the Far East again this year, and we thought it would be worthwhile following the team this year by inviting JLT-Condor rider Conor Dunne to be a Cyclist guest blogger for the week. The 6ft 8 Irishman moved to the team in 2016 after two years spent in Belgium with An Post - Chain Reaction, and has already marked this change in colours by winning the Rutland-Melton Cicle Classic back in April. 

In the first of Conor's Tour de Korea blogs, we find out what the team were up to before the racing begun. 

South Korea is not the sort of place one would usually associate with cycling. 

However, it is the latest destination for my bike racing exploits. I’m here for the UCI 2.1-ranked Tour de Korea - an eight day, 1,300km stage race with a peloton consisting of pro-continental, continental and national teams. My previous knowledge of the country is shamefully minimal, so I’m curious about what the week may bring both culturally and competitively.

The long-haul flight over began in Heathrow with my JLT-Condor-Mavic teammates and finished in the southern Korean city of Busan. I’d say I received a warm welcome but unfortunately a fellow passenger decided to vomit down the plane aisle as we landed, so that kind of soured things. However, spirits soared as we finally reached our hotel, which also happens to have some form of ‘aqua water park’, complete with slides, lodged between floors 7 and 9.  I’ve never really struggled greatly with jetlag, however I have a slightly unorthodox theory which I have labelled ‘hunger-lag’.

As a 6ft 8 tall cyclist, I do have a rather large appetite and it seems whenever I change timezones I get really hungry around the meal times of my previous country. Arriving a few days early to Korea before the race will hopefully give me a good chance to recover from my hunger-lag and the team their jetlag. Food is usually a bit unorthodox in comparison to those at the hotels of European races, but luckily I don't mind eating rice, egg and soy sauce at 6am, so hopefully I'll survive.

Pre-race days usually consist of some light training, massage and general acclimatisation. Riding out of Busan proved exciting, mainly due to the fact that we were mostly bombing along on 4 lane roads, dodging traffic and bewildered drivers as if the race had already begun. High-rise after high-rise dotted our route out of the city, which took us a whole hour to exit. The busy city roads bustled and the traffic light system baffled us, which we rather comically misunderstood on a number of occasions. At one point, this resulted in our team captain, Russell Downing, becoming stranded between cars in the middle of an 8-lane highway. 

Without a GPS function on any of our phones, I’m sure we’d probably still be out there somewhere trying to find our way back to the hotel, lost in the jungle-like maze of roads that is downtown Busan. I’m eager to start racing now and gradually travel north through the country to the capital, Seoul, where the race finishes. The week will provide a chance to see a good deal of the country, whilst aiming to grab some decent results on the bike for the team and myself. Hopefully this blog provides a good insight into the whole experience!

The race is now two stages into its eight-day length, and we'll have the lowdown from Conor after he's recovered from what he described in an initial message as a '250km epic'. Stay tuned...

Words: @conordunnealot

Photos: @angussung

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