Rider steps into Wong Kam-po's shoes and claims yellow jersey Hong Kong's Tang Wang-yip set his sights on overall victory after holding off his competitors in a tight finish to win the first stage of the Tour of South China Sea yesterday. Riding in the absence of veteran and multiple Tour winner Wong Kam-po, Tang kept the SAR flag flying, completing the 72km stage from Central to Tsing Yi and back in one hour, 39 minutes and 13 seconds. He was followed by Tsui Kong of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Sports Institutes team, while third place went to Jacob Nielsen of the Danish Horsens team. All three riders were given the same time. 'The absence of Wong affected us a bit before the start of the race as he is always the one who leads the team, but once we were on the road, we were 100 per cent focused and concentrated on the race,' said Tang. The 24-year-old finished second overall last year, but this was his first stage win. 'We cannot always rely on [Wong], even though he is our leading rider. We need to find our own way in his absence. My form is good and I am very happy that I could hang on to the end after I had a good start. Hopefully, I can improve on my result last year by winning the overall competition.' Nineteen teams comprising 100 riders set off from Central yesterday morning, taking the Western Harbour Crossing to Tsing Yi where they raced seven laps of a loop on the island before heading back to Central. Tang broke away in the opening lap in Tsing Yi with seven other riders, and the leading pack was later reduced to three riders before it reached the final stages. 'I am good at climbing and therefore the hilly course in Tsing Yi was the ideal point for me to go into the lead,' said Tang. 'I worked with Tsui very well in the closing stages before sprinting to the finish.' But Tang admitted the next six stages, all on mostly flat terrain in the Pearl River Delta, would be a big challenge for him before the hilly last stage in Macau. 'I need to work closely with my teammates to ensure my yellow jersey in the coming six criterium races and then we'll see how it goes in Macau,' he said. 'But since I am now holding an advantage of more than one minute on most of the field, I am quite confident I can maintain the lead until the final stage.' Lam Kai-tsun was the second best finisher from Hong Kong in eighth place, while Wu Kin-san, the 2005 Tour overall champion finished in the main peloton. SAR coach Shen Jinkang said he would discuss with the squad how to protect Tang's lead. 'It's great to see a Hong Kong rider capture the first leg in front of the home crowd and the victory gives us a strong boost for the remaining races,' said the coach. 'Tang showed good form leading up to the 2007 Tour and his victory did not surprise me. However, we must keep the momentum till the end.' The eight-stage Tour will continue with a 90km criterium race in Longhua, Shenzhen today. Criterium races are made up of laps on a road circuit.