This past weekend I was in Samcheok, a nice little town on the east coast, for the third annual Around Samcheok Ride Fest, which is an event aimed at contributing to local tourism, as Samcheok is often neglected by tourists for its more popular northern neighbors Donghae, Gangneung, Yangyang, and Sokcho. The so called ‘Ride Fest’ consists of two days of activities: an individual time trial on Saturday and a Gran Fondo on Sunday, along with various other things occurring before, during, and after the events.
I arrived late Saturday just after the ITT finished and learned that my friend Mansu was the winner, which wasn’t all that surprising actually considering his insane power output in relation to his size and weight. Anyway, the time trial course is pretty short and flat at only about 3.5km, so it’s doable for anyone interested in the experience of competing in an ITT. In fact, next year I will probably register for it just for the enjoyment of it. This year, however, I was there for the Gran Fondo.
My estimate is that about 350 riders were present for the Gran Fondo, which is quite a small number compared the big ones like Muju and Seorak. The riders were divided into three groups whose starts were staggered by about 5 minutes each to avoid too much congestion at the start. Considering it is just the second year of the event, the turnout was pretty good and quite a bit bigger than it was at the inaugural. And, considering how well-organized it was, I expect it will continue to grow.
The Gran Fondo course (here) was about 140km with just under 1,800m of elevation gain, most of which comes with one big climb near the start and another medium sized climb near the end. The rest of the elevation comes from riding up the coastal road with its several small hills. Thus the course had a bit of everything for every kind of rider, including some stunning scenery after the Munuijae climb, as the descent stretched nearly 15km through some stunning mountain valleys with their dark and light green spring forests interspersed with pink and white cherry trees in full bloom. Truly it was gorgeous.
Overall I really have nothing but good things to say about the event. The ITT was apparently fun for newbies; the Gran Fondo course was well planned; feed stations were organized; roads were clear and traffic controlled; the route was well-marked and flagged at danger points and turns. In fact, with the exception of a few sketchy riders, there is really nothing negative to say about the entire weekend, and I look forward to doing it again next April to see how it continues to grow.
(Extra Info: Registration fee for ITT was 20,000won and for Gran Fondo 40,000won. There is also a Medio course, which is just over 40km taking the northern loop only on the course. The fee for this is also 40,000won *I think*).