Hong Kong's Yang Qianyu gets bronze boost in UCI Track World Cup series
Local rider only has had training on the road in Kunming, but still came away with a medal on the track on the first day of the competition in Tseung Kwan O
Home rider Yang Qianyu’s hard work on the road paid off on the track when she won bronze in the women’s scratch race on the opening day of the World Cup series in Tseung Kwan O on Friday.
Not a noted track rider, Yang has focused on road racing as she targets next week’s Asian Championships in Japan, but she received an unexpected boost before an appreciative crowd on the first day of competition at the Hong Kong Velodrome.
WATCH: British star Mark Cavendish on his first taste of the action in Hong Kong
With little hope of catching eventual champion Marina Shmayankova of Belarus, who gained a one-lap advantage over the peloton, Yang followed tightly against Laura Trott of Britain in the closing stages and was second to the Briton in the cross to the line in the 10km, 40-lap race.
Shmayankova took gold with Trott, the double Olympic champion taking silver and Yang taking bronze.
“This is an important result as it is a world-level event,” said the 23-year-old, who came from Liaoning to Hong Kong four years ago.
“My previous best result in the scratch was silver at the Asian Championships, but the class is much different this time around. I have been working very hard since I came here and now my efforts have paid off.”
Yang is also a member of the Hong Kong pursuit team, who is chasing an Olympic berth. But the quartet, which also features Meng Zhaojuan, Pang Yao and Leung Bo-yee, finished a lowly 11th place in the qualifiers on Friday, failing to reach the quarter-finals as their pre-race target.
They clocked four minutes and 37.536 seconds in the 4km race, far behind the Trott-led Great Britain, who crossed the finish in 4:19.369, the fastest among 14 teams.
Coach Shen Jinkang paid high tribute to Yang’s performance, saying the rider had lacked training on the track.
“She only returned from Kunming a couple of days ago as a lot of time has been spent on the road training,” said the coach. “But she had an exceptional race today and a medal at this level will definitely boost her confidence.”
Shen said Yang would be Hong Kong’s major hope in the Asian Championships of which the champion would automatically gain a berth to the Rio Olympics.
“The continental event will take place on a hilly course and Yang is a natural climber due to her slim build,” he said. “But we also need to do well in the pursuit as we still have a chance in the qualification if we can do well in both the Asian Championships and the World Championships.”
The worlds in London in March will be the final round of Olympic qualification in track cycling. The Hong Kong women’s team are currently 13th in the standings, with only the best nine teams going to the Rio Games.
Meanwhile, Leung Chun-wing of Hong Kong must overcome a slow start as he rubs shoulders with a top-class field in the men’s omnium that includes Mark Cavendish of Britain and Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark, the 2012 London Games champion.
“I’ve always failed to deliver in the elimination race of the omnium and, hopefully, with the help of the home fans, I can have a good start,” said Leung. “Before we only competed in the World Cup in overseas countries and I feel very good racing on our home ground.”
Star rider Sarah Lee Wai-sze, third in the sprint in the opening round of the series in Cali, will also take to the field.
“This is a good opportunity for her to try different tactics as she prepares for the Olympic Games,” said coach Shen. “Her form is fine and, if she can do well in the 200 metre qualification for the sprint, she stands a good medal chance.”
Lee will face challenges from a long list of overseas competitors, headed by Anastasiia Voinova, the Russian sprinter who set the 500-metre time-trial world record last year, Guo Shuang of China and Stephanie Morton of Australia.
The British men’s pursuit team managed to reach the first round despite the loss of one member in the 4km race after Kian Emadi crashed on the track due to a tyre puncture. They finished sixth in the qualification with three men racing half of the race.
“I am not happy with the time, but happy with the performance and the fighting spirit of the boys despite one rider crashing,” said coach Salzwedel Heiko, who praised the performance of Cavendish. “This was the first time he raced in the team pursuit after 10 years, so he was really nervous. There was a lot of pressure on him, but Mark did a fantastic job.”
The star rider will not race in the team pursuit on Saturday as the coach wanted Cavendish to focus on the omnium, the event the rider is chasing for selection to the Rio Olympics.