ASAN, South Korea (VN) — Two days after surprising the peloton with a solo attack with less than six kilometers remaining to win stage 3 at Tour de Korea, Poland’s Karol Domagalski once again used time trial tactics to claim stage 5 and take the yellow leader’s jersey by more than two minutes.
The margin of victory almost guarantees the 26-year-old from Skala will be crowned the overall winner in three days’ time when the eight-day stage race (UCI 2.1) concludes on Sunday, June 12.
While the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Domagalski has looked like a man among boys in Korea, success in cycling has not always come easy for the former Caja Rural rider who turned pro in 2012 and now rides for One Pro Cycling.
“When I was in Caja Rural, it was little bit old school,” Domagalski said. “For my body, I am big — never going to be a good climber — and they were trying to make me good climber, and it wasn’t a good idea.
“I lost three years and now when I come to One Pro Cycling they give me chance, and teach me new methods of cycling, training, power, and nutrition. Nutrition is so important, and I just didn’t know the right things to do.”
Team sport director Matt Winston was quick to sing Domagalski’s praise following his potentially race-winning stage victory in Asan on Thursday.
“Karol’s an absolutely amazing talent,” Winston said. “He did three years at Pro Conti and one year at the Continental level [Team Raleigh GAC], and I saw him racing last year with Raleigh and knew he had something and just needed to be developed to his full potential.”
Winston was not the only person to take notice. JLT Condor (CT) sports director John Herety also sees something in Domagalski.
“I saw him ride with Raleigh last year and he was just this big, raw talent that hadn’t found his way,” said Herety. “Now look at him go, he’s quite impressive and the way in which he is winning is something special.”
Domagalski’s rebirth coincides with the debut of One Pro Cycling at the UCI Pro Continental level after spending its first year as a British-registered Continental team. The team was founded less than two years ago by businessman Simon Chappell and retired professional cricketer Matt Prior, who has made no secret he would like the team to move to WorldTour within the next five years.
“We have got a five-year plan, to start a team at Continental level and go through the ranks to WorldTour,” Prior told Sky Sports when the team launched in December 2014. “The dream is the Tour de France; the dream is the WorldTour. It’s a huge, huge challenge, and we are not taking it lightly.”
Domagalski joins a roster filled with 2014 British Elite Road Series champion Yanto Barker and fellow Briton Chris Opie, who won Korea’s stage 2, as well as two-time Australian national criterium champion Steele von Hoff and 2011 Milan-San Remo winner Matthew Goss.
“We’re growing as a team,” claimed Domagalski. “We’re still learning, but I am confident we are going to become a great team in the future.”
As far as his own WorldTour aspirations, Domagalski is interested but claims he’s in no hurry to make the leap. “Everything about One Pro Cycling is next level,” he said. “The coaches, the bikes, the nutrition, the equipment … everything.
“This team is really amazing and they are helping me grow,” Domagalski concluded. “They trust me and give me everything I need to be successful. I am happy here so we will see what the future holds for us both.”
Aaron S. Lee is a pro cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport, and guest contributor to VeloNews.