Hong Kong counting on notching up valuable Olympic qualifying points as clock ticks down to Rio
Bauhinia riders face tough top-class field of cyclists on Tour of Chongming Island this weekend, which is a UCI Women’s World Tour event
Hong Kong will be banking on one of the last few chances for realising their Olympic qualifying hopes during the Tour of Chongming Island starting in Shanghai this weekend.
The Chongming event, which will be held over three days, is part of the UCI Women’s World Tour and the China leg of the series is the only stop in Asia.
With Yang Xianyu back in the world’s top 100 following her victory in the Tour of Thailand in April, Hong Kong has revitalised their qualifying hopes for the Rio Games despite the injury to top rider Meng Zhoujuan in the practise session leading to the Asian Championships in January.
Coach Shen Jinkang, however, said Yang and her fellow Hong Kong teammates such as Pang Yao, Diao Xiaojuan, Leung Po-yee would have to deliver their best performance against the world’s top riders if they are to achieve a stage win or a podium finish in the general classification.
Yang, Pang, Diao and Leung will be represent Hong Kong during the tour.
Despite her injury, Meng will be riding for Chongming Liv-Champion-System, a China based professional team.
“This race is attracting quite a quality field,” said the coach.
“We have been in Kunming for altitude training after returning from the Tour of Thailand to strengthen our preparations, but still it will be difficult for our riders.”
The Tour starts with a 140km race on the eastern part of the island on Friday, followed by another 112kmrace on the western part on Saturday and wrap up with a nine-lap criterium race, with each lap 11km long, on Sunday.
World number one team, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling will be headed by experienced Australian Chloe Hosking, who has excelled in the island races since her debut in 2009 when she won two of the four stages and took the overall title.
Hosking will be accompanied by four British riders, who performed well in the Tour of Yorkshire last week. They are Lucy Garner, Dani King, Anna Christian and Amy Roberts.
The 22-year-old Garner, a two-time former world road race junior champion, is arriving in Chongming after a fantastic second and winning the best young rider award on the Yorkshire tour.
The roster will be completed by its Japanese champion, and Asian time trial champion, Mayuko Hagiwara, making a rare appearance in her home continent.
Another favourite team, Liv-Plantur is set to return with a powerful, experienced line-up that includes Canadian sprinter Leah Kirchmann, the world No 19. Other team members are Riejanne Markus, Sara Mustonen, Rozanne Slik, Julia Soek and Kyara Stijns.
To compete for precious Olympic qualification points, the Hong Kong women’s team will also travel to Europe for two events after next week’s Zhoushan Island Tour in Zhejiang. They will first take part in the six-stage Tour d’Occitanie in France (May 20-22) before joining a one-day race at the Horizon Park Women Challenge in Ukraine (May 27-29).
Qualifying ends at the end of this month.