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After eight hard days of racing, Mike Cuming took the biggest win of his career last week, claiming the overall title at the Tour of Korea. Supported by RCJ teammates Elliott Porter, Richard Handley, Aaron Buggle, Hugh Carthy and Luke Grivell-Mellor, the British under-23 road race national champion seized the yellow jersey with a brilliant attacking ride on the race’s hilly sixth stage.
Cuming had previously taken fourth place on stage one, and seventh on the race’s only hilltop finish on stage three. Having started the stage in fifth place overall after Rapha-Condor-JLT had finished third in the team time trial, only three seconds behind the winners MTN -Qhubeka, Cuming had managed to escape the yellow jersey group with ten other riders after the first climb of the day.
Despite being isolated in the chase group, yellow jersey Kinglok Cheung of the Hong Kong team refused to give up the ghost and a thrilling chase ensued with Cuming eventually becoming virtual race leader with only 20km to go.
“It took an age to get the three minutes, and I could see that the gap was always creeping up. I was fortunate that the group were committed, but to be honest I didn’t worry about anything other than just getting my head down and getting as much time as possible. I gave it everything.”
Cuming then successfully defended a slender twelve second lead on the final two stages, and with only two teammates remaining going into the seventh stage, the men in black rode out of their skin to defend his yellow jersey.
Speaking after the finish a delighted Cuming said,
“When I started this race right days ago I had no idea I’d end up taking the overall win. I went in knowing I had good form and never put any pressure on myself, but the right things kept happening.”
“The races in Asia are really hard to control, and I just kept trying for moves. I wasn’t the best climber in the race, but I was strong enough to be there and take advantage of the moves.”
Cuming was also full of praise for his Rapha-Condor-JLT teammates.
“The team were unbelievable here, we came so close in the TTT and that really set up our overall challenge. That ride took me from eighth to fifth and from then on I just went for it.”
“Rich (Handley) was going so well, and the pressure that he put on the race in the first couple of days was what allowed me to be fresh and aggressive in the final. Then when I took the jersey he rode unbelievably strongly on stages seven and eight to protect me. The whole team did everything they could, and I’m glad that I could finish the job for them. It was a massive effort.”
It was 22 year-old Cuming’s first UCI stage race win, and marks a significant step up in his development, coming less than one year after he took the national U23 road title. He will now look to take his form forward as he returns to to the UK for the National Road Race Championships in Glasgow this weekend.
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