'This is the course I grew up with over the years. I didn't have it in the end, but this is a positive start for me' Wong Kam-po tried to make the race his own in the opening stage of the Tour of South China Sea. He really tried. But in the end, he came up just short of a famous home victory in Sha Tin. The classy 30-year-old Hong Kong rider finished third in yesterday's Christmas Day stage along Yuen Wo Road that was in his very own backyard. Still, Hong Kong's most celebrated rider got off to an encouraging start to the Tour as he attempts to regain the title he has won four times before. 'I really wanted to win this stage because I live here [in Sha Tin] and a lot of people were counting on me to win. This is the course I grew up with over the years. I didn't have it in the end, but this is a positive start for me,' said the Pocari Sweat Hong Kong ace, whose home overlooks the course. 'Third is better than fourth and fifth and at least I finished on the podium today. Tomorrow is another day and I hope to keep up the good work. I'd like to win a Hong Kong stage before the Tour moves to China,' said Wong, who clocked the same time as race winner Oleg Grishkin of the Moscow City Sports Association. Australian track star Brett Aitken shared the Christmas cheer by finishing second in the 30-lap, 72-kilometre criterium that finished in warm sunshine. But the day will be remembered for Wong's bravery and how he almost stole the race from a world-class field despite not having conditions to suit with the Tour watered down to suit the track cyclists and sprinters. Wong sprinted home with four other riders - the leading pack having splintered from the main group after 25 laps. Grishkin, a noted sprinter who finished fourth in the madison at the World Championships in 1998, just got the better of Aitken and Wong as they crossed the line. The rest of the field was another 11 seconds adrift. Grishkin was pleasantly surprised by his stage victory, saying his team had only arrived the night before on Christmas Eve. He was clearly the strongest at the finish as he sprinted clear over the line after surging to the lead with around 100 metres to go. He starts today's 98-kilometre road race second stage from Wan Chai to Tsing Yi wearing the leader's yellow jersey. 'We had just arrived at 7pm the previous day after a long flight from Moscow. So to finish this race and win is good. I felt OK during the race, but there is no telling how I will do in the remaining legs. It is still early days,' said the Russian, who won this year's Grand Prix de Rennes in France and clocked 1:40.56 for yesterday's race. 'This is the first time I am competing in Hong Kong. I didn't know anything about the race and the course so I am glad to have won. I was confident I would do well in the sprint home because I am good in sprints. It was a tough race in the end,' he said. Wong said he felt a bit nervous with the finish line in sight. 'I knew I couldn't match the other guys in speed, but I gave it my all. I'm a bit disappointed to have finished third, but by the same token, I am glad I finished in the top three. It's a positive start for me and hopefully I can do better in the next few stages,' said Wong, Tour winner here in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001. Aitken, who is the most high-profile rider in the field as a Sydney Olympic gold medallist, was chuffed to bits with his second-place finish. This despite suffering a tumultuous five weeks when he suffered illness and problems at home. 'It's been a surprise for me. It is not a bad thing to be finishing second because the rider who is wearing the yellow jersey will be a marked man. It's been a good day for us because my teammate, Peter [Milostic], finished fifth,' said Aitken. 'I joined the leaders with around six laps to go and I was very surprised that I was a bit better than I thought and that the other riders were a bit slower. There were a few wet patches [on the course] that made it very slippery and it was a cause for concern. There were a couple of crashes. But the patches dried up towards the end,' he said. 'There are seven days to go. It will be an interesting battle in the next few days.' Aitken then paid tribute to Wong, saying the Hong Kong ace proved to be the rider everybody expected him to be. 'I knew Wong would be a very dangerous rider because he knows the course well. When he went for it at the sprint, the other riders went with him.' Wong's coach, Shen Jinkang, said his charge had a good start to the Tour. 'I am very satisfied with Wong. He finished a few seconds clear of the main bunch which means he got an even better start than we had hoped for. Wong started to sprint from the 250-metre mark and it was the correct thing for him to do. If he had waited any longer, he might not have finished third,' said the former Chinese national coach.