Hong Kong's first Gran Fondo cycling race to be launched in October

Two routes considered for Gran Fondo event to include professional and amateur riders

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 4:15am

A major cycling race for top athletes and amateurs will be launched in the city in October.

The first Gran Fondo Hong Kong will have three categories - professional, semi-professional and amateur - covering distances of 60, 40 and 20 kilometres.

Tourism Board executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said two routes are being considered, one going from Hong Kong Island through the Western Harbour Tunnel to Kowloon side, and another from Central via the Island Eastern Corridor to Tseung Kwan O.

A professional organiser has been appointed for the event and sponsors have been approached, but details such as traffic arrangements have yet to be finalised.

"It could be more complicated than hosting a marathon … the use of water barriers could be necessary," said Lau, adding the board aimed to make it a mega event in Asia in the long-term.

Leung Hung-tak, chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Association, said 60 kilometres was probably too short a distance to attract overseas professionals. "They usually look for competitions covering 100 to 200km," he said.

Leung said government support was crucial to making the event a success. " "The government should offer assistance in road closure and promotion," he said.

While it is too early to estimate the number of visitors that might be drawn to the cycling event, the board has projected that Hong Kong will see about 59 million visitors this year, an increase of 8.6 per cent from last year.

That would be slower than the year-on-year growth rate of 11.7 per cent last year.

The number of visitors from the mainland is expected to increase 10.8 per cent to 45.1 million; 60 per cent of those are projected to be same-day visitors. Last year arrivals from the mainland surged 16.8 per cent on 2012.

A slight slowdown in mainland visitor numbers was normal, Lau said: "The growth rate drops as the base number has grown bigger … mainland government bodies and state-owned enterprises are also expected to reduce their trips and spending."

The projection came a day after top government officials criticised a protest on Sunday against mainland visitors, saying it tarnished the city's image.

Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok said he understood public frustration over disruption caused by tourists.

"It is not optimal that all tourists go to the same place like Causeway Bay," he said.

"But there are more than 200,000 people whose jobs are related to tourism. We need to find a balance."

Facing a growing influx of visitors - projected by the government to reach 100 million a year in 2023 - it is necessary for Hong Kong to plan ahead and develop new attractions in areas such as Kowloon East and Lantau, Lam added.