The half smiles on the victory podium failed to disguise the hurt Wong Kam-po was feeling inside. Call it what you want - deliberate intervention, team tactics or just pure unfair rivalry - Hong Kong's finest rider found out what friends are really for during yesterday's Games men's 169.4-km road race. Observers called it a 'Central Asian Alliance' - three teams from the former Soviet Union co-operating to prevent a possible Hong Kong victory as Wong's title was prised from him in the cruellest fashion at the Geumjeong Sports Park on the outskirts of Pusan. In the end, Uzbekistan's Sergey Krushevskiy crossed the finish line ahead of Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov with Wong limping home in third place in a result the Hong Kong camp called a 'hollow victory'. Wong was a sitting duck who had no one to help him after teammate Wong Ngai-ching failed to keep up the pace and dropped back, finishing 14th in the end. 'The three teams [Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan] co-operated with each other to make sure we didn't win. It was three riders against one,' lamented Hong Kong coach Shen Jinkang. 'Ah-Po's energy was gone in the end after fighting countless battles against the three riders when it was clear the four leading riders were going to fight for the medals. The three teams all speak the same language. 'Ah-Po had it tough out there. He's an incredible rider because all the odds were stacked against him and yet he still managed to come away with a bronze medal. He just proved yet again how good he is. I just wish the race had been a race between individual riders with no team support.' Ever the diplomat, Wong played down the matter, saying team co-operation - even from different teams - often happened. 'It happens all the time in cycling. It's normal. I did my best. They didn't physically prevent me from doing better although there was no denying that they co-operated with each other,' said the 29-year-old Wong, who also finished third at this year's Asian Championships in Bangkok. 'I might not have won gold but I will continue to strive to win medals for Hong Kong,' said the disappointed rider, who will compete in today's 4km individual pursuit in the track competition. 'If I had to do the whole race again, I still wouldn't have won. I think I matched the top riders in stamina and strength to show that Hong Kong is right up with them.' The congratulatory hugs and hand shakes between winner Krushevskiy and Vinokourov, who rides for Telekom in Europe, and even fourth-placed Evgeny Vakker of Kyrgyzstan, who won silver in the 48.9-km individual time trial last week, were testimony that an alliance had played a big part in Wong's downfall. 'It was strange before the race that those three teams wanted to share a support vehicle. I noticed that,' Shen said. 'The organisers didn't give them permission to use one support vehicle. 'The intention to prevent our boy from winning was there from the start. They wanted to plot their strategies better and make communications better with one support vehicle. Maybe, they didn't want to make it so obvious so that's why they had their own support vehicles in the end.' Krushevskiy, who has ridden professionally in Germany for nine years and rides for Oktos, was the clear winner as he took the chequered flag in four hours, 17 minutes and 59 seconds. Vinokourov, who won silver at the Sydney Olympics and who was the rider Wong had feared most, was 25 seconds off the pace, while Wong was 53 seconds behind him. Asked to comment on the matter, the 26-year-old Krushevskiy said: 'Co-operation always happens in cycling. I won the race fair. We didn't break any rules.' Asian Cycling Federation president Dharsan Singh still saluted Wong's gallant efforts, calling the Hong Kong competitor one of Asia's 'all-star' riders. 'I have been following Wong very closely and I would say that what he did today was still a mighty achievement. It's good for him [that he won a medal], good for Hong Kong and for cycling,' said the Malaysian. A field of just 28 riders competed in the gruelling race that was held in a picturesque landscape in Pusan with rolling hills and lush valleys. The course was considered tough with tight bends that forced riders to slow down significantly in order to make their turns. After 2.5 hours of racing, the group of four riders broke away from the main group - and the gap began bigger as the race wore on. At first, Iranian rider Ghader Mizbani tried to stay with the big four, but he gradually faded and it became clear who would be fighting it out for the medals. Wong snatched the lead just after the 100km mark - but he was just ahead of four other riders as the lead changed hands several times in the final stages of the race. With 10km to go, Wong was virtually a spent force after chasing Vakker, who was the sacrificial lamb as team tactics against Wong gradually wore him out. The exhausted Hong Kong rider simply didn't have any petrol left as Krushevskiy made his move. And the Uzbekistan competitor kept his lead to win one of the most anti-climactic road races in Asian cycling history.