Road paved with gold for Hong Kong’s Cheung King-lok at Asian Championships
Racer makes it two titles after his victory in road time trial
Hong Kong’s Cheung King-lok overcame difficult conditions – and challenges from two Pro-Tour riders and former champions – to clinch his first Asian road race title in Oshima, Japan, on Sunday.
Three days after winning Hong Kong’s first ever road time trial gold at an Asian Championships, Cheung showed great mental strength to triumph in his specialist event.
Cheung will represent Hong Kong in the road race at the Rio Olympics in August – taking the ticket secured by teammate Leung Chun-wing at last year’s Asian Championships.
Cheung completed the 119-kilometre event in three hours, 25 minutes and 24 seconds, beating Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro by six seconds, with another host rider, Fumiyuki Beppu, third in 3:31:12.
Riding for Italian Pro Tour team Lampre-Merida, Arashiro was the first Japanese cyclist to finish three Grand Tours in 2015, after his Tour de France debut in 2009. The 32-year-old also won the Asian title in 2011.
Beppu is also a professional rider for Trek-Segafredo and has also raced in the Tour de France. He was the Asian champion in 2009.
Coach Shen Jinkang had special praise for Cheung because only 11 riders of the 50 starters were able to finish the race.
“The organisers decided to reduce the race from 13 laps to 10 midway through the race because of the strong winds and low temperatures. The conditions were very difficult for the riders,” said the coach.
“Cheung used his speed to break away from the leading bunch after 60 kilometres. However, the experienced Arashiro kept pressuring Cheung and the two riders raced against each other to the finish.
“Arashiro had a lot of support from the fans but it was Cheung who showed the greater will power. It was a great job accomplished.
“He has set an example for other young riders from Hong Kong to follow and hopefully we can look forward to more good results.”
Cheung, who turns 25 next month, also became the third rider to complete a road race double in the Asian Championships, behind Taworn Jirapan of Thailand (1963) and Hossein Askari of Iran (2015).
Hong Kong, meanwhile, have been hit by a series of injuries for the track events of the continental championships, which start in the Izu velodrome on Tuesday.
Meng Zhaojuan and Pang Yao have been ruled out because of injury, meaning Hong Kong are unlikely to compete in the women’s team pursuit, an event which they still have a slim chance of Olympic qualification.
But Sarah Lee Wai-sze will be aiming for her sixth consecutive title in the women’s 500-metre time trial after her first success in 2011.
Lee will also be competing in the sprint and keirin, for which she won a silver and bronze medal respectively at last weekend’s Hong Kong leg of the World Cup.