Tang basks in post-to-post victory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong rider improves on 2006 runner-up finish to win Tour of South China Sea

Tang Wang-yip became the third Hong Kong rider to win the Tour of South China Sea after an impressive finish in the final stage in Macau.

Having held the yellow jersey since his victory in the opening stage in Hong Kong the previous Sunday, Tang completed the mission when he came in second on the eighth and final stage over a hilly 92.2km course yesterday.

The HSBC Pro Team rider was assured of the title when he broke away from the 83-rider group in the 2.2km mountain climb at the end of the stage after completing 10 laps around Coloane Island. Taiji Nishitani of the Japan national team powered past Tang in the last 150 metres, but the Japanese rider's effort did not make any difference to the final overall rankings, with Tang raising his arms as he crossed the finish line.

Tang's triumph was Hong Kong's sixth victory in the race, which was first staged in 1996. Hong Kong's top rider, Wong Kam-po, who did not take part in this year's event, has won it four times, while Wu Kin-san was the last SAR rider - before Tang's triumph yesterday - to achieve the feat, in 2005.

'It's like a dream come true,' said Tang. 'When I was a youngster, I always dreamed of racing one day while wearing the yellow jersey. However, even though I was the runner-up in the Tour last year, I had never worn a yellow jersey until I came first in the opening stage in the Hong Kong leg this year, and I was so happy that I was able to keep it going all the way to the final stage.

'Even before the Macau stage, I was quite confident of winning the overall title because of my climbing ability. But it doesn't feel real until you cross the finish line. It was just a great moment to cherish.'

Stage winner Nishitani clocked two hours, 15 minutes and 20 seconds, while Tang was just two seconds behind. Third place went to Sergio Meliciano Ruas of the Macau Beijing Selection with a time of 2:15:28.

Tang, 24, joined the Hong Kong team five years ago but it was not until last year that he became a force to be reckoned with.

In the absence of Wong, Tang rose to the occasion and deserved his victory for his hard effort.

The humble rider also took time to thank his teammates for their solid support throughout the Tour.

'I am not a good sprinter and six of the eight stages were on flat courses, which gave me a lot of difficulty,' he said. 'But I was lucky to have my teammates, who provided me with such good support.

'In fact, they also helped me a lot during the Macau stage, allowing me to save my energy until I launched my attack on the final mountain climb.'

Tang will now head for Kuala Lumpur for the Tour of Malaysia this week.